Main cast: Harley Neville (Wesley Pennington), Jocelyn Christian (Susan Ford), Ben Baker (Tane Henare), Reanin Johannink (Jessica Valentine), Mike Edward (Adam Harrison), Andrew Laing (SMP), Simon Ward (Richard Driver), Mark Neilson (Randy Bateman), Patrick Davies (Greg Winston), and Harry Love (Harold Beasley)
Director: Guy Pigden
I Survived a Zombie Holocaust is a New Zealand export, written and directed by the rather unfortunately named Guy Pigden. It actually delivers genuine misfits and nerds as the lead characters, and its premise is pretty fun: a zombie movie production being assaulted by actual zombies. Don’t worry, this isn’t another tedious footage found flick or a jump scare marathon – it’s a pretty meta comedy with some cheaply put-together scenes of gore that probably won’t really scare anyone.
It is the balding, short, nerdy, bespectacled, and squeaky Wesley Pennington’s first day as a runner at the set of a long-troubled zombie movie directed by the tyrannical SMP. That man keeps ordering script changes even as filming is already underway, driving the harried perfectionist scriptwriter Harold Beasley into despair. The lead actors, the dumb jock Adam Harrison and the diva Jessica Valentine hate one another and their spats constantly disrupt filming. And then there is method actor Greg Winston who runs around like he is really Dr Herbert White (hmm, is that a halfway nod to Reanimator?) and the zombies are coming to eat them at all. SMP heaps abuse and insults at his assistant Richard, who in turn takes it out on everyone else.
Location manager Tane Henare treats Wesley pretty nicely, but he also makes it clear that, as the runner, Wesley’s job is to do whatever that the other crew members don’t want to do. The prop manager Randy Bateman who constantly trumps stereotypical right-wing American rhetoric on the other hand makes it a sport to bully Wesley. Still, Wesley is delusional enough to shrug off most of the demeaning insults and taunts because (a) he thinks his job is a great opportunity to flog his own zombie movie script to SMP and (b) he is distracted by his immediate infatuation with Susan Ford, the cook who really can’t cook. On her end, Susan thinks that Wesley is just… weird.
Of course, it has to be Greg who is the first to stumble upon the zombies, and naturally, nobody believes him as he’d run around screaming that the zombies are coming plenty of times in the past. Eventually, it is up to Wesley, the only genre-savvy person of the bunch, to lead the ragtag crew members to safety, but unfortunately, he’s not the most capable person around. He’s terrible at being a hero, in fact. Are they all going to die thanks to this fool? Well, you have to watch this movie to find out.
And it’s perfectly fine to watch this movie, if you ask me. Sure, the prop and the set look really artificial, due to budget constraints, and the zombies are very obviously just extras – probably the locals in the nearby town – with some white foundation and some fake blood here and there on their faces. Actually, I manage to spot a few zombies in the crowd that don’t even have such make up! That’s okay, because we all have to make do with the amount of money we can spare for a movie, and I Survived a Zombie Holocaust isn’t that bad to look at.
There are also some pretty good moments of comedy – Wesley is really terrible at his job, let’s just say, and his timing can’t be more atrocious – and the story is alright, if somewhat predictable. I like that Wesley and Susan are two unconventional horror leads. They don’t look pretty or buff, for one, and in fact, they are both the epitome of accidental final guy and final girl, not that I have any issue with this because they are both entertaining. Harley Neville and Jocelyn Christian have pretty good chemistry as the nerdy drama queen and the more sensible, straight-laced tough gal respectively. I suspect some people will find Wesley obnoxious, though, and I can see where they are coming from, because everything about Wesley can be an acquired taste of sorts. Still, he’s alright with me, mostly because the more down to earth Susan and Tane are there to balance out his more histrionic moments.
As for gore, well, I suspect they spent most of the money on a rather gruesome death scene of one particular character, leaving little for anything else, as that particular scene is the closest to this movie being a horror flick rather than a comedy that just happens to have zombies in it. As for nudity, well, Reanin Johannink shows some skin, but the MVP is Mike Edward, who spends quite a while wearing only a sock around his willie as he shows off a pretty spectacular body.
At any rate, I Survived a Zombie Holocaust is a movie that will live or die by its comedic moments rather than horror, and there’s where I am sort of 50-50 with this one. There are some humorous moments, as I’ve mentioned, but at the same time, Guy Pigden’s script serves up an assortment of entertaining losers and misfits only to then throw them to the zombies before these characters make an impact on me. Hence, the movie ends up with a by-the-numbers type of assembly chain feel when it comes to having the characters die one by one. I don’t even know whom these characters are when they die, so I’m neither moved to laugh at their demise or cringe. I don’t care, because they are just zombie chow, and that’s a shame, because these characters could have been far more than that.
Still, this is an alright way to pass the time with. It could have been so much more, but at the same time, it could have been so much worse. Plus, props have to be given to the premise, even if the execution isn’t all that in the end.