Director: Jesse Dayton
Writer: Jesse Dayton
Producer: Marissa Garrison, Karma Montagne, Jesse Dayton
Stars: Lew Temple, Malcolm McDowell, David Christopher, Sid Haig, Corey Feldman, John Doe, Emily Kaye, Pierre Kennel, Desiree McKinney, Tom Araya
In post-Katrina New Orleans, an experimental drug trial turns PTSD-afflicted residents into ravenous zombies.
Sid Haig fans well know the infamous anecdote of how the one-of-a-kind actor turned down the “Pulp Fiction” role of Marsellus Wallace that ultimately went to Ving Rhames. Of course, this was slightly before Quentin Tarantino became Quentin Tarantino, and well before accepting a part in a project of his became a no-brainer. Concerned that the shooting schedule was “too TV,” and not wanting to participate in what looked to be a hectic production, Haig passed on the offer. “Pulp Fiction” became an international sensation and Sid Haig later returned to the B movie grind.
With that knowledge in mind, every time Haig turns up in something like “Creature” or “Zombex,” one wonders what happened to that judicious consideration of which movies are and are not worth his time. Perhaps Haig is so tattooed by regret over the “Pulp Fiction” punt that he is afraid to reject even the lowliest offer for fear of a reprise. How else to explain his presence in the schlocky bore-fest that is “Zombex?”
At least Haig is sharing the burden of an embarrassing presence with Malcolm McDowell, Lew Temple, and Corey Feldman. Either a truckload of money changed hands that convinced this quartet to add “Zombex” to their lengthy résumés, or more than one agent was looking for new employment once the actors realized the level of production for which they were signed up.
The good news for Sid Haig is bad news for his fans. Which is that the actor does not have to show up until 70 minutes into an 80-minute film. Putting his face on the artwork and his name above the title despite the brief appearance is an old trick for enticing viewers to tune in, and “Zombex” pulls it more than once.
About the time the audience remembers, “wasn’t Corey Feldman supposed to be in this?” the 80’s teen idol pops in with but five minutes to spare before the end credits. His character appears in five or six camera setups during one single scene. Feldman’s face is only visible in half of them, making it entirely possible that his two minutes were filmed in three shots.
Malcolm McDowell’s screen time falls somewhere between Haig’s and Feldman’s. McDowell puts in a few paltry moments over a five-minute span early in the film before reappearing in act three to introduce Feldman’s even more pointless role.
The lackluster performances are not the fault of the cast. Starting from a tired concept, Haig, Feldman, and McDowell are given little to do and little to add to an already unexciting screenplay working with a cut-rate budget.
By that same token, credit is due to writer/director Jesse Dayton and his producers for securing the name recognition value. Without it, there would be no reason to notice this movie.
“Zombex” is set in post-Katrina New Orleans. Aside from zydeco references and a café menu advertising gumbo, it could be post-Cuyahoga River burning in Cleveland, Ohio all the same.
A company concerned more with profit margins than with treating the sick produces a pill to ease anxiety and PTSD. Before people start mutating into flesh-eating creatures from the wonder drug, Chandler Pharmaceutical is already portrayed as corporate evil thanks to its cardboard cutout of a corrupt chairman fondling a cigar while on the phone with his feet up.
Realizing that some four to five thousand patients have been zombified throughout Louisiana, Rush Chandler hires Black Rain Security to clean up the mess. Black Rain consists of exactly two female mercenaries, one of whom moonlights as a burlesque dancer. How a dancer and her girlfriend are going to eradicate thousands of zombies is the least of the problems for a script that includes a drunk musician, a conspiracy theorist radio DJ, and assorted random personalities who come and go whether they offer any relevance to the onscreen action or not.
“Zombex” could use Chandler Pharmaceutical’s medicine to treat its own ADHD. “Zombex” splices itself together via odd editing that makes as little sense as the plot. Quick cuts, soft focus, and oversaturated colors give the first impression of a fast-paced visual style, but without offering a clear vision of what that look means to accomplish besides creating confusing imagery.
Inexcusably substandard sound design puts “Zombex” on a path of accidental comedy. With the production budget presumably going into the stars’ wallets, audio scrounges from a public domain library of sound effects akin to those found on a $2 compilation CD. The canned screams are laughably terrible while the same generic gunfire SFX is repeated to the point of unintentional hilarity.
Amateur digital blood. Line flubs front and center. Wild zombie packs that appear from thin air whenever the screenplay decides to inject a jolt. Everything about the production says bargain bin except for the cast list. Being generous, “Zombex” is a mediocre at best zombie film featuring notable genre faves as its only draw. If not for that detail alone, no one would care that “Zombex” existed.
Review Score: 30