Writer/director Glenn R. Miller has made a hellishly awful mashup of references, replete with poor screenwriting, in Zoombies.
Some people love Jurassic Park. Some people love zombies. Yes, you can combine these two obsessions. Writer/director Glenn R. Miller has made a hellishly awful mashup of references, replete with poor screenwriting, in Zoombies. Starting with a grand opening commercial that’s basically a list of all the animals you’ll need to look out for once they’re zombified, Zoombies initially looks like a twisted Animal Planet show. From there, Zoombies follows the beats of Jurassic Park to introduce its characters, and you’ll invariably try to guess who’s going to be killed while sitting on a toilet seat. The painfully forced nature of this scene of references solidifies Zoombies‘ standing as a derivative B-movie, and it never aims for anything more.
But you have to give it to Miller, his low budget genre flick has one hell of a start, with an infected monkey dying only to come back to life to kill three zoo attendants and infect the other monkeys in the room. Side note: in case you didn’t know, the preferred way for a zombie-monkey to kill is by ripping out its victim’s eyeballs. Yay. This gruesome opening establishes the rapidly spreading zombie infection that threatens to turn to zoo population against its staff and new interns. The cause of the zombie infection remains vague, to say the least, as Miller is less interested in exposition than human-on-zoo-animal action. One thing that Miller loves is bizarre camerawork that’s bizarre for the sake of being bizarre; case in point is the zombie-monkey cam viewpoint that involves a lot of close-ups of floor tile and people’s shoes.
The characters themselves, as loosely drawn as they are, fall into fairly rote stereotypes. There’s the bird nerd, Ricky (Isaac Anderson), a hyperactive 20-something who wears Hawaiian shirts. Gage (Andrew Asper), is a Business Administration student who’s just as douchey as his name. He actually hits on a girl with the line, “What’s a young Republican like you doing here?” The poor recipient of such a line is Amber (Brianna Chomer), a hardheaded intern who flirts with death-by-zoombie from the beginning, so her fate comes as no shock. And keeping with the theme of inexplicable plot, the zoo’s owner, Dr. Ellen Rogers (Kim Nielsen), is a scientist who should be more involved in this outbreak than she is, content to sit in her sealed office at the top of the main building giving orders over the walkie talkie. Dr. Rogers’ daughter, Thea (LaLa Nestor), is very attached to the zoo’s silverback gorilla, Kifo. And just like in a horror movie where you should never say you’ll be right back, you should never say that a zoo animal (aka a hilariously unrealistic baby gorilla suit) would never hurt you. The little girl just has to learn that the hard way.
Zoombies is most enjoyable when its script stumbles over itself. There’s absolutely no suspension of disbelief here, but certain moments suck any faith you might have in Miller right out. Production flaws are always reliable, as when Dr. Rogers is told that the CDC are coming all the way from Atlanta and will take about three hours to arrive, despite the fact that the police helicopters have “Ontario” plastered on the side. Who knew Atlanta to Ontario was so fast! But Miller’s writing also struggles to keep the disaster going. His characters are dimwits, but the rationale that elephants have no natural predators and therefore wouldn’t be attacked by the zombie monkeys doesn’t really make sense when we’ve just seen zombie giraffes. Even once Dr. Rogers has come up with a semi-believable solution, Miller drags things out even longer getting all of his surviving characters in one central location. We wouldn’t want anyone to miss seeing that flaming zombie-eagle, now would we.
Zoombies is a very self-aware low budget production, and that budget restricts the zombie lengths Miller can go to, as well as encouraging some lazy filmmaking. For instance, almost every single scene transition is a CGI aerial shot of the zoo. The Syfy channel consists of nothing but such B-movies animal disasters and half-hearted fantasy. Miller himself is very familiar with these projects, as he was second unit director on multiple Sharknado movies. Zoombies may reflect this illustrious experience behind the camera, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is pure camp that resorts to the comfortable fallback of Jurassic Park references at every opportunity.