April 16, 2008

DVD Review: Automaton Transfusion

Low budget horror movies are a dime a dozen. Seriously. Every time you turn around another one is popping out of the woodwork, each claiming to be the next big thing. However, more often than not, they just turn out to be another low budget exercise destined for budget bins around the world and quickly forgotten. In recent weeks I have reviewed a pair of low budget horror films, each one brought something of worth to the table and are well worth spending some time with. That being the case, it was bound to happen, a low budget horror film that does not have a lot to offer, and was actually a little hard to watch. For those playing at home, the two recent ones worth watching are Die and Let Live and The Blood Shed, and the one that offers little is the subject of this review, Automaton Transfusion.

Now, when you watch a low budget film the question will invariably arise, should this be rated on the same scale as your typical Hollywood film scale? Should things be given a free pass because it is a low budget film? Does that fact somehow entitle it to some good will? This is not an easy thing to answer. It is quite complicated, but what it all boils down to is fairly simple, the movie has to be entertaining and make some effort to stand out from the crowd. I will always give films at this level a lot of credit based on the simple fact they exist. Making a film is not an easy thing to do at any level.

With that said, Automaton Transfusion does build to a frenetic conclusion that should make viewers, me included, rather happy. However, there is nothing particularly special about the build up. There was nothing we haven't seen before, and better. Granted, there was fun to be had, but given a choice for my zombie action, I would likely seek other choices.

Before going any further, let's lay out a bit about the movie.

The film opens in the morgue. Seems as good a place as any to kick off a zombie flick. As the teenage assistant cleans up after the final body of the day is placed in storage, a strange noise is heard. Further investigation reveals a zombie, which in turn leads to our first kill. The scene shifts to the local high school with your typical conglomeration of teens doing teen things. Then a teacher is rushed out after being bitten by a student. Normal everyday stuff.

After school, a few of the kids head off to catch a concert. On their way they notice that there are no other cars on the road. The strange happenings continue until they reach town to find the streets just as empty as the highway. Then more strange noises and a stampede of the undead bear down upon our heroes. From this moment forward it is a fight for survival. There number grows and shrinks as the zombie horde thins the herd, and they meet up with survivors from a nearby party.

Now, there is not much else to say until the finale when the film abruptly stops as the words: "To Be Continued" appear on the screen. That's it? You're kidding, right?

Now, back to my thoughts on the film.

The look just really got under my skin. I know, it has nothing to do with the content, but the low budget roots are really showing. The transfer is non-anamorphic, meaning those of you with widescreen displays will either need to zoom in or deal with a window-boxed image. In either case you will have nowhere near the resolution of an anamorphic transfer. As for the picture itself, everything is soft, and there is zero sharpness. It just looks absolutely terrible, and I am at a loss as to why it should look like this.

Now, the story, about three quarters of the way through we are given some exposition. The problem is that it feels like too little, too late. They waited too long to give this information and we are only given a bit of it. We don't get the whole thing as they are holding some back for the sequels. Yes, that is plural.

Why, oh why, did they have to make this the first of a proposed trilogy? As much as I like continuing stories, not everything needs to be a sequel. This is especially true for a low budget film such as this. It is my opinion that when you are working at this level you should focus on one film and one story at a time. Make the movie, a complete movie, and see how you do. Sure, you can leave it open for a sequel, but please have some resolution to something. This did not have it and did not earn the "to be continued" ending.

The acting is mediocre, the script silly, and the action is nothing special. It does do the gore well. There is plenty of blood and the effects are well done. There is nothing like effective use of practical effects. It is just too bad that everything surrounding the blood left me a little flat.

Still, I am willing to give these guys some praise. They made a movie, well the beginning of one at least, and they should be commended for what they were able to do with little money and lot of time, effort, and desire. Better luck next time.

Audio/Video. I already spoke on this, but let me repeat that the video is awful. The audio isn't much better. I found myself turning on the subtitles to ensure I heard the dialogue. Not only that, some of the dubbing was not done too well and doesn't synch with the onscreen action.

Extras. There are plenty of extras accompanying the feature.
  • Commentary. There is a full length track on the feature featuring writer/director Steven C. Miller and producers William Clevinger and Mark Thalman. The track is pretty good. They discuss the 9 day shoot and how much work they put into it. These guys are nothing if not dedicated.
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Director's Commentary. Plenty of extra zombie action in a big montage, plus a bunch of other sequences that did not make the cut or didn't quite fit. (~5 minutes)
  • Suffer or Sacrifice, short film by Steven C. Miller. A short made for the 48 Hour Film Festival, meaning it was mafe in a mere 48 hours. Not a bad little film for such a short shoot. (5 minutes)
  • Music Video: "Can You Hear Me Now?" by Blinded Black. This screamo track appears early on in the film. The video is of the performance variety and is noting terribly special. (3.5 minutes)
  • Music Video: "Aresnaholic" by Dancefloor Tragedy. Annoying screamo song (3.5 minutes)
  • Trials anmd Tribulations - The Making of Automaton Transfusion. A look behind the scenes of the film.They discuss their goals and then went for the throat. It is a good look at what they went through on the set. (26 minutes)
  • Trailer.

Bottomline. I give them credit for what they have done here, but it is only worth watching if you are a die hard zombie fan.

Not Recommended.


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