Even the unintentional humor is hard to appreciate.
Dig deeply enough into the Netflix horror section—past The Human Centipede 2 and a dozen Hellraiser and Leprechaun sequels—and you’ll find an axe-wielding Danny Trejo looming large on a poster for Zombie Hunter. You might push play and expect 90 minutes of Danny Trejo being badass. At the very least, you’d anticipate 90 minutes of zombie mayhem. Zombie Hunter gives viewers neither.
The partially Kickstarter-funded flick is not interested in the living dead. Despite the film’s poster, Danny Trejo only plays a bit part as a grizzled man of the cloth named Father Jesús. He gets one splashy zombie-bashing montage and a single fight scene against a giant, badly-CGI’d creature. Not appearing until 15 minutes in, Jesús is dispatched not long thereafter, sending Trejo off to cash his check and wait for Robert Rodriguez to call again.
Instead of Trejo, the rogue slayer of the title is the asshole jock from your high school. Our hero (Martin Copping) sports blonde highlights, claims he “[doesn’t] have a name, not anymore” and spews platitudes like “it’s always good to get lucky.” He offers ridiculous expository tidbits about the “Eaters, or as the papers call them: ‘Flesh-Eaters,’” and he postures himself as some kind of Mad Max-style renegade.
The opening minutes include the most zombie-hunting we’ll get, as the Hunter slays half a dozen homemade playdough-faced ghouls in an abandoned convenience store. As one would expect, the Hunter has a chip on his shoulder because his wife and daughter were killed in the zombie apocalypse. The turmoil was started by a neon pink, intravenous drug called “Natas” (try spelling that backwards) that apparently wiped out everyone but him. Of course, that’s not the case, because there’s still a handful of survivalist holdouts who mistake him for a Camaro-driving zombie and put a rifle bullet in him. From there, the Hunter sees the first living people he’s come across in six months, each conveniently fitting into one stereotype or another.
Despite his bullet wound, the Hunter is soon flirting with a Daisy Dukes-wearing stripper who calls herself (no lie) “Fast Lane” Debbie (Jade Regier). Her carnal advances are thwarted by good girl Alison (Clare Niederpruem), who interrupts the would-be banging in order to bring their wounded new friend a Coke can on a plate, for God’s sake. Despite the zombie horde (and some unexplained 10-foot tall mutants/aliens/demons) threatening their lives, the two women proceed to get catty and repeatedly call each other sluts. This type of melodrama goes on and on with nary a zombie in sight.
The group of survivors decides to travel to a small airport in a town called Dahmer (the heliport in Gacy presumably too far of a drive). One protracted pole dance, awkward sex scene and (spoiler alert) Trejo decapitation later and they’re on their way. Never mind the one remaining old guy who drops the “I’m too old for this shit” line from Lethal Weapon. They’re picked off one by one, with ultra-fake computerized gore aplenty. A chainsaw-wielding baddie slathered in silver greasepaint shows up out of nowhere. More inexplicable mutants/demons lurk about. Occasionally, a cheesy-looking zombie pops up and growls. What the film really seems to care about is the silly melodrama cooked up between the Hunter and Alison after they hump (they were wasted on tequila and Alison is left wondering if the Hunter even remembers their lovemaking session… or cares!).
Some of this would be acceptable as campy B-movie fare if the gore was better or the film at least hinted at self-parody. Instead, the largely peripheral zombies seem to be gnawing on the same modestly bloodied tubing meant to pass for intestines. Director Kevin King not only employs liberal use of hokey-looking splatter effects, he also makes the unfathomable decision spray blood that’s pink, purple, blue or green. The acting is of the abysmal porno variety, which makes some sense in “Fast Lane” Debbie’s case since Jade Regier’s IMDb bio lists nude photo shoots, bikini spreads and “free-style exotic dancing” among her accomplishments. Why everyone in the film talks like sulking high schoolers while the zombie apocalypse is upon them is anyone’s guess, and the Hunter, with his breathy, faux tough-guy delivery, is simply insufferable.
Zombie Hunter tries to ape films actually led by Danny Trejo. There’s some snappy editing here and there, an obvious desire on the director’s part to be a micro-budget grindhouse-minded Tarantino. But this film can’t succeed as camp because it takes its ludicrous shit too seriously. As if “no, you’re the slut!” melodrama and unexplained mutant/demons are somehow inherently worthy of our time. Even the unintentional humor—and there’s just enough of it to excuse a partial viewing if you’re drunk enough—is hard to appreciate. It’s quickly drowned out by the douche-rock soundtrack. Or maybe I’m just too old for this shit.