Upon hearing the title of this Horror anthology film you would think that it might be an attempt to tap into the same vein as Ruben Fleisher’s Zombieland did back in 2009. We would, however, urge any movie fan going into Zombieworld to exorcise such a thought because what we have here is a far different, more grimy, low-budget, throwback. Like The ABCs of Death and V/H/S/2 before it, this anthology horror film often breaches comedy more than anything; nevertheless, the results are wildly uneven in this collection of shorts combined via a wraparound story of a news bulletin on the zombie apocalypse.
Let’s not pull any punches here, because Zombieworld is trash. This is not meant in an offensive fashion, as there is clear work on show in this gruesome splatter-fest, but the film as a whole is trash. Now, is that a bad thing? That depends on what you were wanting from this film. If you wanted the segments to unite in a kind of comedic riff on Max Brooks’ World War Z, then you may well be massively let down. However, if you just wanted to slap a film on and have a laugh, then this throwback to the video nasty rental era should probably do the trick. Zombieworld is not a ‘good’ film by any definition, but it is a crazed and depraved pick n’ mix where some segments are pointless, others are fine and a handful are actually pretty great fun.
The wraparound plot (entitled ZNN) is fine and often benefits from Bill Oberst Jr.’s fun performance as news presenter Marvin Gloatt. The story is a fun way to anchor (pun intended) the film and is a good choice for a wraparound narrative base. From here on in, the results are more wonky, so let’s start with the good. The best of the shorts is undoubtedly the early short, Fist of Jesus, which depicts an early outbreak of zombies and how they are fought off by Jesus Christ (Marc Velasco). The short is limb loppingly loopy and drenched in blood and, whatever your creed, seeing a religious figure fighting a zombie hoard with fish and blessed fighting skill cannot be anything other than fun. Likewise, the later beach-set short Brutal Relax sees a quiet (but unstable and stressed) chap go on holiday at doctor’s orders, only to be met by zombies emerging from the sea. What follows is a series of mad gory death sequences and intentionally OTT visceral humour, much to many people’s delight.
These two shorts are the film’s strongest suit as many of the others sit in the centre of the spectrum – the rather good Certified (about a postman being invited in by a family) tells a good story but is at odds with the genre of the collection. I Am Lonely is a funny tale of friendship under pressure but again is at odds with some of the other tales. The three How To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse segments stretch the joke way too far. The more dramatic short Home, that sees a woman struggling to cope with the infection of her husband, is well acted but sticks out due to its serious tone amidst the silliness. Then there are shorts like the well shot but forgettable POV stories Dead Times and Dead Rush, along with the sole story that adheres to the captured footage element of the news wraparound plot, but sadly doesn’t really go anywhere, in police car camera short Dead Stop. The incredibly brief Teleportal is more a concept, rahter than a fully-fledged story, and does not properly adhere to the film’s McGuffin at all.
The links between the stories and the wraparound mean virtually nothing. The acting is a mixed bag and the digital effects are predictably jarring in this low-budget film. And yet when the early Sam Raimi-like splattery effects are allowed to run wild, for the film’s many gaping flaws, the bloody barminess means this is an occasionally enjoyable offering. The results of these many director-writer collaborations are all over the place and thus Zombieworld is not the best of horror film anthologies. It is trash, as we said, and yet there is something troublingly gratifying about a film that embraces this and at one point has a sequence in which Jesus summons a Piranha to strip a zombie to the bone one minute, then crushes the head of an undead warrior with a wooden cross the next.
Still you could probably just Youtube the good bits, as opposed to sitting through the average moments of this anthology offering.