Sunday, February 09, 2014

Zombies: the Beginning – review

Director: Bruno Mattei (as Vincent Dawn)

Release date: 2007

Contains spoilers

You might recall the ‘Vamp or Not?’ I wrote concerning Bruno Mattei’s Island of the Living Dead. Despite being pretty much a zombie film we had a definite vampire lady, fangs on some of the zombies (making them zompires, I suspect) and body part regeneration. We also had bad acting, (almost) impossibly bad dubbing and a virtually pointless plot (almost, but everything is relative, of course).

fanged zompire
I received a comment on that post from Alex who said “I think it gets even more weirder in the sequel where they look like aliens of some sort. Zombie-vampires from outer space!” Close, in fact so very close in a very strange way. Now the vampire/zompire aspect to this is much less marked than the previous film and, had I started with this, I might have strayed away from Vamp? But they are the same creatures (primarily), originally from the same island and so this remains Vamp and gets a review.

turning dream
Now, flip to my last piece of evidence on the ‘Vamp or Not?’ where I suggested, “Spoilers-a-plenty when I say that only Sharon gets off the island but, after being picked up by the coastguard (from a raft) she is pronounced dead and then sits up with fangs and eyes red – looking pretty darn vampire” In a revisionism that would make Flash Gordon blush we see Sharon (Yvette Yzon) rescued at the beginning of this and taken to hospital, a survivor. She does have recurring dreams about being on the island and attacking the nurse after turning.

back on plot
Now I mentioned aliens… I should have mentioned Aliens – as this is the same plot as the 1986 James Cameron film except, of course, that it is on earth rather than space and has zompires in it. I say same plot… at times it is a riff on the same blooming dialogue. So, we get a hearing where file images of the crew of the Dark Star (the now named salvage ship) are projected, whilst the corporate suits refuse to believe Sharon’s story and eventually sack her. She then goes off and, in a slight stray from the Aliens plot, joins a Buddhist temple until Paul Barker (Paul Holme) asks her to come back to the plotline she left by becoming religious.

on the island
It seems that the Corporation went to the island and took “samples” to another island they own and they have lost contact with the base there. A group of marines are being sent in (who seem to be a corporate private army). Despite being offered a lucrative biologist’s contract (she was some sort of professional relic hunter in the last film) Sharon refuses; she suffers more nightmares and changes her mind. Having met the marines in the rain, prior to getting on a submarine, it is clear that the marines do not believe the tale of zombies any more than any of them can act. Soon they are on the island and exploring.

womb burster - top left
We get a story that sees experiments in breeding the zompires, because spreading the (presumably supernatural) disease through bite just ain’t enough, and the marines manage to track the corporation’s employees through tracking tattoos (!) We get moments of movement all around them, a womb-bursting foetus (with the zompire asking to be killed), the marine’s captain losing the plot when his guys (and one gal) are attacked, Sharon rescuing the troops and, later, Barker locking Sharon in a room with a “sample”. It really is a lift and drop of plot; I was only disappointed that “nuking it from offshore” wasn’t mentioned.

evil plot hatched by the zombie brain
Instead of a queen alien we get a body-less brain (where this came from is unexplained) using women, their bellies connected to big old industrial tubes, to breed cone-headed, bug-eyed, sharp-toothed zompire kids (a new species, I suppose). We get something big out in the woods - the very unrevealing close up of the snout gave nothing too much away and we don’t see it again after a fast cut “chopping in two with claws” of the communications expert. Some of the zompires have definitive fangs again but we don’t see regeneration this time nor do we see the ability to make the humans hallucinate. We also do not see the marines coming back as zompires or zombies, despite Sharon telling the survivors that those first attacked will have been turned when the tracking equipment suggests they are still alive (its the “The Sarge and Dietrich aren't dead, man...” moment from Aliens).

fanged zompire
Generally just think back to Aliens and then think how it might have been made the worst film it could dream of being… got it… you are right on track with this one. The first film threw in little homages to zombie films gone by and was pretty awful but at least tried to do its own thing even if, ultimately, it was fairly pointless. All that said it had a modicum of B movie charm. This is just a lift of a classic, which then has a cinematic mess projected over it. The acting is just as bad as the first film, the dubbing atrocious and the locations… At the beginning Sharon is taken to the Middle East Asia Central Hospital – could we get any more generic than that?

You have to see it once just to suffer as much as I did… the fact that the DVD I found on eBay had hardcoded Czech subtitles probably enhanced the experience rather than detracted. 1 out of 10 for sheer audacity.

The imdb page is here.


Alex said...

It's amazing how you manage to sit through so many rubbish films. You are one dedicated fellow. Or obsessive?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

A little from column A, a little from column B - and there is always the frisson of finding a diamond in the rough :)

WatchingTheDead said...

Sounds atrocious but I do find some charm and enjoyment from Mattei's outing even though I do feel like I need a wash after.

Not heard of this or it's prequel, so I'll add them to the list though after reading your thoughts I'm not going to thank you for it.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

They're available on German DVD (with English dub) and czech (or at least #2 is available from Czech) but I hold out no responsibility for you having to watch 'em ;)