February 9, 2008

DVD Review: Undead or Alive

Zombies and the Old West? Sure, I'll buy that. It's a horror comedy? Sounds good so far. Wait a minute, it stars who? Chris Kattan, James Denton, and Navi Rawat? You're kidding me right? Whose bright idea was it to take a former Saturday Night Live cast member, a member of the Desperate Housewives cast, and a member of the Numb3rs cast together in a zombie comedy? I have no idea how this is supposed to work, but upon hearing of the cast combination I knew I had to. Seriously, tell me the very idea of Chris Kattan in a zombie western is not terribly intriguing. Going in there was no way you could tell me that it was going to be good. After seeing it, there is no way that I can tell you that it is good. What I can say, however, is that it is actually kind of fun.

The setup, of which there is very little, is that when the US Army was pursuing Geronimo, his final act before dying was to create a "medicine" called White Man's Curse. What is this curse, you ask? Well, it causes the dead to rise and desire flesh. On top of that, if anyone gets bitten, they will inevitably turn into an undead creature.

With the opening exposition out of the way, the story shifts to a drifter named Elmer (Denton), and a dentist named Luke (Kattan). The two get in a scuffle and find themselves locked up in the local clink next to Ben (Brian Posehn) who just happens to be a zombie who was arrested after eating his daughter (at least I think it's his daughter). Of course, nobody knows that he is a zombie, or even what a zombie is. Anyway, the two polar opposites manage to escape lockup and rob the sheriff of his money before heading off into the wilderness.

Back to Ben for a moment, if you have one zombie you are sure to have more zombies. Ben gets a hold of one of the deputies and before you know there is a zombie epidemic. The sheriff starts up a posse to head after Luke and Elmer, even as his crew gets more and more zombiefied.

Now Elmer and Luke end up running into Sue (Rawat), Geronimo's niece who is intent on having her revenge on the army troops responsible for killing her uncle. That is about all of the story you get. What more do you need? The vast majority of zombie films end up as a survival story anyway. This is no different.

The second half of the film features Elmer, Luke, and Sue battling for survival against the oncoming hordes. Surprisingly, it is actually fun. No, it is not original and it does not forge any new ground. Still, it delivers some laughs, it has some blood, and it is fun. Seriously, this will never be remembered as a great film, but it is undeniably fun.

Undead or Alive is the directorial debut of screenwriter Glasgow Phillips, who had previously been a staff writer for South Park and Father of the Pride. He does a decent job here of making a low budget film that is fun enough to recommend but not good enough to actually call good. I believe the likability of the cast has a lot to do with why it is as fun as it is.

Audio/Video. The video looks pretty good. It is anamorphic widescreen in a 2.35:1 ratio. The colors are sharp and the sometimes gorgeous cinematography shines through. The 5.1 audio track is quite nice as well, all sounds and dialogue are nicely balanced. There is nothing to complain about here.

Extras. The disk has a modest complement of bonus material.

  • Commentary. The track features writer/director Glasgow Phillips, and actors Navi Rawat, James Denton, and Chris Kattan. This is actually an entertaining listen, it even makes the movie a bit more fun. They are obviously having a good time and clearly enjoyed filming, it shows right through on this track. One of the things learned is that the town they filmed in was the same one used for the reality show Kid Nation.
  • Frolm South Park to the Wild, Wild, West. This is a look at Glasgow Phillips beginnings on South Park (season 6). It is also a behind the scenes look at the making of the film. The whole thing is hosted by Phillips. (14 minutes)
  • Geronimonsters: The Zombies that Walked the West. More talking with Phillips as we take a look at the zombies and make-up effects from Robert Kurtzman. The effects were quite good with the rotting corpse look. (12 minutes)
  • Trailer. The original promi trailer.

Bottomline. Rent it, get some friends together, grab a couple of beers, pop some corn, mix well and enjoy. I cannot say enough that it is not a good movie. Despite the lack of any worthy story, or anything that smacked of originality, I enjoyed it and I suspect that some of you will too.

Mildly Recommended.


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