Monday, October 11, 2010

Zombie Brigade – review

Directors: Carmelo Musca & Barrie Pattison

Release date: 1986

Contains spoilers

The name, Zombie Brigade, isn’t quite a misnomer… there is indeed a zombie brigade in this flick… but, as a title, it is misleading. You see the main undead we get appearing in this are vampires (from the head of the film) and the zombie brigade appears right towards the end of the movie.

Yoshie and Jimmy
The film itself is Australian and that, in itself, makes it quite an oddity. There is, amongst other things, an underlying racism exposed quite blatantly within the film. However unlike films such as Barry McKenzie Holds His Own this does not revel in it but exposes it and then shifts things onto its head by offering the audience an indigenous hero, Jimmy (John Moore), and an Asian heroine, Yoshie (Khym Lam). The fact that the heroine’s role is very limited might, in itself, raise feminist issues.

infected Vietcong
The film starts off in Vietnam in 1969. We see an Australian soldier. He clearly doesn’t want to go back the way he came – though a sergeant seems to be making him. As we push through the foliage we see a Vietcong sat over a body, he looks up and there is blood around his mouth and his eyes some sunken.

Mr Kinosita arrives
The 1980s and we are in an unnamed Australian rural town run by Mayor Ransom (Geoffrey Gibbs). He and the council are discussing bringing the Robot-Man theme park into the area and are awaiting the visit of a Mr Kinoshita (Adam A Wong). The main problem is a war memorial slap bang where they want to build – the solution, blow it up and move the bodies. We can already see an underlying racism in the film with the way Jimmy is treated and referred to by the council members. When Kinoshita arrives, with his translator Yoshi, the mayor ensures that he meets a Robot-Man stand in (Jimmy) and sees stereotypical Aussie things (kangaroos and sheep).

blowing up the monument
The monument is demolished and a reception is arranged. We discover that Kinoshita can actually speak perfect English and one gets the impression that there is an underlying con being perpetrated that never gets explored. Whores are imported into the reception rather than wives and the men get steadily more and more drunk.

Rise of the vampire soldiers
Out at the monument we see soldiers emerging from the hole it covered. They have fangs. Yoshi goes back to her hotel room and the mayor heads back and tries to rape her. Jimmy comes to her rescue and knocks him out (the traditional resignation method). He is taking her to the Fergusons’ home – friends of his – when they notice the soldiers in the town.

We see one of the whores from the party grabbed and bitten in an atypical vampire way before being dragged down to the floor by a mob of grasping hands, in a more zombie type scene. These creatures seem slow moving, strong and fanged. Jimmy flees to his friends’, but the Ferguson house seems deserted. Soon they find the daughter dead on the floor and drive off. More soldiers appear and he crashes near the trailer belonging to his uncle Charlie (Michael Fuller).

rapid decay
They run towards Charlie who is singing. Three soldiers approach Charlie when three aborigine warriors appear and spear one of them, causing the other two to retreat. When Jimmy asks who the warriors were he is told they were his father, his uncle Wally and Joe Wombat – all three are dead. Charlie explains that whilst they will protect him they will not help the whitefellas. The soldier quickly decays. Meanwhile the local cop, Constable Bill Jackson (Leslie Wright), shoots a soldier – who doesn’t die. He calls for help and is told of Operation Body Count. There is a folder in his safe, which he retrieves, then the soldiers break in.

The next day people are shell shocked. There are bodies all over. Jackson has survived and explains that the Vietcong used a biological weapon – from our point of view vampirism. The infected soldiers were put under the monument in a capsule with a gas to hold them in an inert state. The explosion has released the gas. Jackson has been infected but not succumbed yet. Yoshie refers to them as kyonsi.

They fear the light, which makes them weaker. One is found in the nurse’s station and Jackson stakes it. This is the way to kill them, he explains. The Government will not send a rescue team – the protocol is containment. They were aware as soon as the monument went – there was a transmitter in it – and have mined the entire surrounding area. Jimmy’s solution is to open the graves of the main cemetery (the monument was in the bush) and allow Charlie to sing the white dead folk into action. Ransom will not take Jimmy’s suggestion seriously (as he says that he is black and talking mumbo jumbo).

summoning the zombie brigade
They do indeed sing the white dead (all soldiers from other conflicts, it appears) up and this is our zombie brigade. However, will they like what they find when raised up? Will, for instance, soldiers who died fighting the Japanese in World War 2 approve of the café having a sushi special? The fact that I have asked the question clearly means it is an issue.

Lore wise I have covered the main points except that crucifixes have no effect on the vampires and that all those killed by the vampires rise as vampires the next night.

zombies in detail
The film tries to be quirky and has an undercurrent humour that attacks the town bigots but is not as cutting as perhaps it should be. In the main we don’t get to know characters enough to care for their plight, barring Jimmy and Yoshie. The film fails to develop an atmosphere or a feeling of dread and that is its greatest failing as there is an interesting premise at its heart – especially with regards the vampires and zombies and the interactions thereof.

This could have been much more than it finally was. 4 out of 10 for a quirky, unusual but below average flick.

The imdb page is here.

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