Movie Review: “Rockabilly Zombie Weekend”

zombie2 A movie with the killer title “Rockabilly Zombie Weekend” is making a set of promises to an audience.

It’s going to be a zombie picture, tapping in to horror’s favorite subgenre of the moment.

It’s going to take place over a weekend.

And it’s going to be have a rockabilly twang with a hint of redneck about it.

The Orlando-made “Rockabilly Zombie Weekend” keeps a couple of those promises. But it’s the one it all but ignores, the killer rockabilly hook (Think “Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil”) that could have lifted it above generic.

The premise is solid, Florida’s mania for spraying its citizens for Mediterranean Fruit Flies and West Nile Virus spreading mosquitoes — spraying the citizens get no say about — leads to tragedy.

That’s how the zombie virus gets out, when two Men in Black show up at a cropduster’s business with jugs of mosquito-killing poison. Is this stuff safe, the pilot wants to know? Have they done animal testing and research?

“This IS the research,” a Man in Black (Steven Shea, a producer on the film) blurts out, the best line in the movie.

The spraying starts, and a short time later — ok a LONG time later –ordinary folk start spitting up bile and craving human flesh and brains.

The anchor story is about a rockabilly wedding between Becky (Christina Bach) and Grant (Daniel Baldock). The movie burns a good half hour on the wedding stresses (biker bar mother of the bride, drunken lout stepdad, judgmentally trashy mother of the groom) between these two tattooed and tarted up 20something twangers.

The wedding itself — where the band is Killer Moonshine — is a tepid affair. Until the flesh eating starts. Even that never quite builds to anything terrifying, titillating or fun.

What they rounded up here is a collection of zombie movie conventions. Oh no, the zombies have trashed the hospital! Let’s meet the cynical survivalist biker (J. LaRose, amusing) in the abandoned convenience store, where we go for “supplies.” Who might have the biggest gun collection in town?

But it’s not enough to re-state those conventions with a certain competence.  Director Jaime Velez Soto (“The Whisper Home”) and screenwriter Tammy Bennett have to figure out that “ambition” for a film doesn’t stop at renting a crop duster and a helicopter, and buying every blood-squib in the Southeast. Tone and atmosphere require more than a novel “woozy cam” effect, to show the effects of zombification on the zombiefied.

And you need more out of your cast than good looks, exotic piercings, tattoos and haircuts (Check out the “minister” marrying Grant and Becky, dude must use Miracle Grow on that goatee).

Everybody with a filmmaking Jones figures the best way to do break in is through horror. Get a concept, a title and a script, execute it well enough to look like a movie (production values are VERY good on this one), and maybe it’ll get noticed and sell.

But the vast majority of these — and I see a lot of them — are let down by the script. The plot here isn’t the problem. It’s the duller than “Living Dead” dialogue.

Maybe the inspiration filmmakers take from the George A. Romero example — he made “Night of the Living Dead” on a shoestring — is misplaced. Look to Judd Apatow instead.

On Apatow’s sets, improvisational comics have  a place. And there are improv comics in every town. Apatow’s rule, start with a script, but “the funniest line/best gag gets in” once you’re on the set.  The plot doesn’t change, but the dialogue improves, with the help of the actors.

If you’re calling your movie “Rockabilly Zombie Weekend” you ought to deliver more rockabilly, more rednecks and more fun than this.

MPAA Rating:  Unrated,with graphic zombie violence and suggested sexuality

Cast: Christina Bach, Daniel Baldock, Randy Molnar, J. LaRose, Michelle Elise

Credits: Directed by Jaime Velez Soto, written by Tammy Bennett.

Running time: 1:39

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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