Monday, September 29, 2008

Movie review - Gangs of the Dead (2006) {aka, Last Rites}

When there’s no more room in hell… exploitive, direct to DVD, racist and stereotypical crap will walk the earth.

That’s what I thought after sitting through the urban-horror outing of Gangs of the Dead. (Or Last Rites. At some point the title of the movie was changed from Last Rites to Gangs of the Dead. I suspect this was done because Last Rites is a retarded name for a zombie flick.)

Gangs of the Dead tells the story of a group of rival gangs (one black and one Hispanic) who get stuck in an isolated warehouse during a zombie event; this movie is a sad mixture of stereotypes and trite genre conventions. Boasting a cast of unknowns, this film could best be described as a poor remake of Night of the Living Dead. Except that, you know, it kind of sucked.

Now, I do want to say that – in the right hands – urban horror is a great offshoot of the genre. However, much of the recent attempts at it have failed miserably. Low budget, low brow affairs – like this and the craptastic Vampiyaz, Zombiez, and Bloodz Vs. Wolvez – serve only to make quick money as direct to video fare and, when the only people who are profiting are the DVD distributors, you know the filmmaking is always a secondary consideration. It’s like the Blaxploitation films of the 60’s and 70’s… only Blackula, Dolamite, and Shaft were memorable and had redeeming social value By that I mean, these earlier films showed strong African American characters who didn’t take shit from the white establishment and fought against the entrenched and institutionalized racism of the time. Does Gangs if the Dead aspire to such lofty heights? Thirty years from now, will Quentin Tarantino wax orgiastic about Gangs of the Dead?

I don’t think so. Not so much.

Oh how I long for the simpler beauty and grace of Wes Craven’s urban horror masterpiece, The People Under the Stairs.

(I should also add that it makes me cringe to have to write those stupid, contrived, BEV'ified movie names. "Yo! Doctor Zombiez movie reviewz in the houze!" All I'm saying is that every time someone ends a word with a 'z, when it should be an 's', said someone deserves to burn to death in a fire.)

So the zombie epidemic in this film is triggered by a meteorite. To which, I’d like to add, Jesus Titty-Fucking Christ! I am getting so tired of this explanation/origin for zombies! Enough already! We get it! You watched NOTLD and feel it necessary to establish that you’re somehow a fan of George A Romero’s masterpiece. Aarrrgghh! I can feel a goddamned aneurysm coming on!

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face. (Errmmm… I mean bluer than my already vivid undead blue tint; but that’s beside the point.) The fact is… I don’t need to have it explained to me how the dead are rising from the grave to eat the living. All I need to see is the gore and lip-smacking, brain-chomping, blood-squirting goodness.

Anyway, there’s a meteor. It crashes in Los Angeles and turns a group of homeless, fundamental Christians into zombies. They trap the main characters in a warehouse where the survivors pair off into their respective stereotypes. We have the black gang, who are surprisingly free of stereotypes and are the heroes of the film. We have the Hispanic gang run by a brutish Chollo of epic, stereotypical proportions. We have two cops that were about to bust the gangs before the shit went all zombie-like, but are now there simply to be poorly acted stereotypes of racist cops. There’s a couple of chicks attached to the gangs, and a cowardly, ultra-white, fat, “I-can’t-believe-I’m-here-with-all-of-these-varying-shades-of- brown-people!” weather guy who took a wrong turn on his way into the hood and/or barrio to score some coke.

All of the characters, with the exception of the black gang, are violent, stupid, selfish, and stereotypical; which goes to show that – even amongst the black writers and directors of this piece of disposable horror – racism is alive and well. Unbelievable.

But enough about the social aspects of this movie… let’s talk about how it went as a zombie flick. Again, I’ve got to say I wasn’t that impressed. The makeup was passable, especially on the featured zombies. The extras makeup looked like something that a high school drama club production might produce. Gore is good, but much of it was CGI’d, and CGi’d poorly. Which is sad - the best part of this movie could be found in the quality of the digital work. Especially with the meteorite effects. The CGI guy on this film did a good job(I should add that, truthfully, I’ve no idea who the CGI guy was, and I don’t really have the energy to IMDB it. There’s an inverse relationship between my willingness to do research on a movie and how badly it sucked. In this case, I’ll be doing little to no research. Don’t blame me; blame the production company, writer, and director who delivered this steaming pile of crap to my Netflix queue.)

Anyway, the effects for the meteor were actually really well done, but that is then marred by how bad the explosions, head shots, and other visual effects are. The lame story and lame effects were somewhat redeemed by the acting. This really surprised me, considering how most low-budget horror films really, really suffer in this area. In this case, the actors did an admirable job with the offal they had and the actors actually made it almost bearable to watch. Almost. But even a dream cast of Sir Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh, Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep, and John Malkovich could only do so much with a bad script, short-sighted direction, and a moronic stringing together of thoughts and ideas. What I’m saying is, in the vernacular of the peasantry, you can’t polish a turd.


That is, I…


You know what? I’m done. I’ve got nothing else to say about this film, other than it sucked. It was a zombie film, which doesn’t make it a negative. When compared to Day of the Dead 2, or some of the other lame attempts at the zombie genre out there, it was slightly above the pack -- but not by much. All in all, it was forgettable.

Would I watch it again? No. Do I feel that I wasted an hour and a half of my life? Not really. Was it an Uwe Boll caliber crap-fest? Hells, no.

So… I guess it’s all right if you’ve got nothing else to watch and are dying for some zombie action. Just don’t expect it to be Evil Dead.

Doctor Zombie’s Rating: 2 out of 5 Chomped Brains.


Randal Graves said...

Very few words end in z, dammit. The People Under the Stairs is an underrated flick. Hey, Spike Lee, for your next movie, do an urban zombie one. Now that would be fucking cool.

Dr. Zombie said...

Fo' shizzel!

And I'd be afraid of a Spike Lee Zombie joint...Seriously. Scorcese, on the other hand, would fucking rock a zombie flick.

Of course he'd probably have Leo Dicaprio in it, and I could think of no actor I'd rather see torn in half and feasted on by ravenous undead ghouls than old Leo!