Studio: Content Media
Director: Steve Barker
Writer: Paul Gerstenberger
Producer: Charlotte Walls, Nick Gillott, Karl Richards
Stars: Dougray Scott, Jessica De Gouw, Martin McCann, Jassa Ahluwalia, Elen Rhys, Claire Goose
Chaos consumes an island resort when a security malfunction releases zombies on the guests who have paid to shoot them.
It’s been seven years since a war against the undead killed a quarter of the world’s population. Rebuilding remains an ongoing process, with humanitarian charities tending to refugees while catharsis-seeking survivors manage post-trauma recovery in peculiar ways.
Melanie is one such person whose mental health professional prescribes hands-on therapy for healing. With returning visitor Lewis at her side for support, Melanie sets off for the charmingly named ‘Rezort,’ an island paradise that an opportunistic entrepreneur turned into a zombie shooting gallery, where patrons can pay to lay waste to the shambling population as part of an elite vacation package.
Melanie sees ‘shufflers,’ the preferred term for zombies here, as surrogates for whatever long-gone hordes figuratively and literally tore apart her closest loved ones. Not everyone is looking to unleash inner aggression during this unusual safari though. Also onboard is a mysterious marksman, two teen gamers taking their FPS skills to another level, and an undead rights activist whose covert mission to steal computer files uploads a virus that corrupts the island’s security system. Once that safety grid goes offline, there is no longer any net keeping the creatures from killing these wide-eyed weekend warriors.
Without reading other reviews for “The Rezort,” I’d bet bottom, top, and every dollar in between that three out of four of them mention “Jurassic Park” at some point. How can anyone not? “The Rezort’s” similar setup comes complete with decaled jeeps transporting tourists around Undead Nublar while a Wayne Knight replacement creates havoc by scheming to heist proprietary information.
Alternatively, “The Rezort’s” element of tourists indulging in morally questionable fantasies stokes a spark of “Westworld.” Either way, the “theme park amok” idea would make Michael Crichton flick a forefinger to his nose in winking approval. Forced to summon a non-Crichton simile, one might say “The Rezort” is something like the idea behind “Hostel” meets video game “Dead Island” instead.
Missing the fact that it stars recognizable names Dougray Scott and Jessica De Gouw, I disinterestedly dismissed “The Rezort” when it was making festival circuit noise due to its dippy title. Be it “Germ Z” (review here), “Plan Z,” “Jeruzalem” (review here), or what have you, appropriating the letter ‘z’ or “horrorizing” an intentional misspelling often denotes a B-grade that even SyFy would think twice about programming, no matter how desperate the timeslot. Factoring that its previous title was “Generation Z,” suggesting a layer of millennial-targeted appeal to boot, “The Rezort” seemed resolute in underselling itself by name alone.
Except it’s not quite the throwaway fright flick or “Jurassic Park with zombies” knockoff preconceptions probably expect. “The Rezort” jabs with a noodle-armed fist of underwritten character types and story beats to which a blindfolded viewer can easily predict the outcome. Yet the follow-up roundhouse of high-grade production value and suitably grim fiction stings the jaw with enough force to come out ahead on the scorecard.
Extending the boxing analogy for another rewording, “The Rezort” is an undercard combatant no scout will eye for title contention. But even with a bell rung from “been there” and a black eye of “done that,” spry footwork keeps the film on its feet and in spirit alone, “The Rezort” puts on a polished presentation from the first bell to the last.
In George A. Romero’s hands, the movie might be worthy of thesis paper dissection. There is a hint, just a hint, of social commentary scratched regarding arguably unfair internment camps for adversarial aggressors and holding an entire group culpable for the sins of a subset. It’s almost a silly notion to see zombies sympathetically or to potentially fumble parallels to important contemporary plights in this case, however.
Rather than risk pretension, the film closes the eye that could cut deeper into subtext and stares down a scope set squarely on action and textbook suspense. That aim stays true too. “The Rezort’s” trigger hand doesn’t grab from the most original bag of tricks, yet Steve Barker’s serious direction keeps the grip tight while sincere acting holds it steady.
I’ll say it a third way in summation, but without an unnecessary metaphor on this go. What “The Rezort” lacks in novelty and characterization, which is enough to leave voracious zombie diehards unimpressed, it makes up for with performances providing personality and a budget put to good use in executing on environment. For a film thin in key places like exploring the full scope of its concept, “The Rezort” manages to be pleasantly thick with surprising entertainment, particularly when going in with that aforementioned anticipation of low-level quality the pesky ‘z’ misleads you into believing the movie has.
Review Score: 70