Robert Rodriguez really leaned into the grindhouse aspect of this effort, but all of it was done using his own personal digital tools like all of his movies. Digital damage to the film stock, digital effects, and digital color timing were combined with an array of analogue tools to create a trashy zombie epic in about 80 minutes.
The first half hour of this movie is kind of a drag. The biggest single problem with the film is that there are way too many characters running around. There’s the stripper who wants to be the comedienne, the wrecking truck driver, the cop, the BBQ restaurant owner, a pair of married doctors and their son, a woman from out of town, and that’s all before we get to the evil military agents and the guy who collects people’s balls. Each one gets some little moment that will end up playing out later to some degree, but when you’re dealing with introducing a cast this large in such a short movie, it gets in the way of the more genre based fun the movie wants to have.
Anyway, through all of these introductions, we’re getting the sense that something’s going wrong. There’s the military trucks driving through the night, spreading and very gross diseases on people’s skin, and the girl who suddenly gets eaten by some freaks on the side of the road. It’s all kind of rote type of buildup, and when matched with the long list of characters, it becomes a bit of a chore to sit through.
However, once we get through the build up and all of the introductions, the movie suddenly becomes kind of fun, increasing that sense of it until the end. It’s ridiculous and silly in its grossness and nihilism, but the movie’s desire to entertain through excess ends up working in its favor, assuming you can take the level of disgusting gore coming your way.
All of the characters collect at the BBQ joint before past secrets get exposed that don’t matter very much and they take the offensive against the increasing zombie horde. They eventually make their way to the local military base and meet Bruce Willis, who explains the nonsense science behind the plague wrecking the small community and threatening to spread far beyond, and violence ensues again.
The movie is filled with design choices that feel both low tech and stupid but high tech and clever at the same time. There’s the famous image of Rose McGowan with her machine gun leg, of course, which makes no sense whatsoever but is entertaining in a stupid sort of way. There’s the devices the military men wear that feeds them the stuff that keeps them from becoming gross monsters. Sets are fun, especially where the evil toxin is stored several stories down within the military base.
It’s an amusing way to spend 80 minutes, though it gets so gross that it will limit appeal. Still, it understands the kind of movie it is and leans into the genre to some entertaining effect. It’s not a great piece of cinema, but it’s a fun flick.
Netflix Rating: 4/5
Quality Rating: 3/4