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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 08.19.08] post apocalyptic zombies movie review

Year: 2007
Director: James Kennedy
Writers: James Kennedy
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Purchase DVD: myspace (via paypal)
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 6.6 out of 10

James Kennedy must have quite the gash on his noggin' from smacking his head against the wall every time Dead City gets compared to Shaun of the Dead. I mean, can you imagine the frustration of having to follow on the heels of Pegg and Wright's international splatstick success? It must be about about as fun as getting the bubonic plague. Truth be told, Shaun was hardly the first zombie flick to mix the undead with other genres for the sake of a good joke. Mark Goldblatt's Dead Heat lampooned the buddy movie way back in '88, while Peter Jackson's Braindead even brought designer gore into the romantic comedy as early as '92. However, Dead City is also British which doesn't help, so what can you really do but make the connection and move on. Which is what I was intending to do right now.... Except, Dead City's three stories, characters, and sens of humor are just way too similar to Shaun of the Dead to put the observations to rest just yet, so expect to hear about Pegg, Shaun, Spaced and my own love of British comedy in the review to come.

Dead City follows the stories of three groups of characters at the point of a virus outbreak that begins to destroy the city around them. Because it is separated into three distinct chapters I've decided the best way to give the film a fair rating is to review each of the segments individually and then grab an average from the numbers. Complicated I know but bear with me.

Chapter 1: Suburban Nightmare
Rating: 5 out of 10

Suburban Nightmare is about a hipster slacker named David who comes home to find that his girlfriend has kicked him out their house after finding another bird's number in his pocket (you gotta program the digits in early bros!). Except, fumbling to worm his way back into the affections of his girl is the least of his worries, as zombies are beginning to run amok in the neighborhood!

Despite a couple of very clever behavioral gags (the laptop bit is genius and very The Jerk), Suburban Nightmare is the least original chapter of the bunch which might explain why it ended up being first on the menu. Taking its story cues from the relationship-on-the-rocks opening scenes of both Shaun of the Dead and Spaced, the segment spends a little too long on a bit that should have really only been one piece of a narrative puzzle. And even though James Kennedy, who himself plays David, does a valiant job at keeping the momentum alive, we spend way too much time watching him talking through doors and up at empty windows to his silent girlfriend.

Despite these minor drawbacks however, Suburban Nightmare is still an enjoyable viewing and some nice referential moments (see if you can catch the JoBlo shout out), and a well played emotional scene which breaks up the action, go a long way to helping the short seem like a more realized work.

Chapter 2: Trapped in the Cinema
Rating: 7 out of 10

Trapped in the Cinema is about three survivors who are, well, trapped in a cinema crawling with zombies. Desperate to escape, they must work together to build a plan.

Trapped in the Cinema was easily my favorite segment of the bunch because it really dialed in that absurd humor the Brits do so well. It was fast paced and constantly defied my expectations while all the actors showcase impeccable comic timing. The black and white was a nice touch and even made the make-up FX more believable.

Did I mention hilarity? Just check out this exchange between David (played by Dyfed Russell Hughes) and Sarah. David has just drawn a map of the cinema in order to help orchestrate a daring escape:

Sarah: Well, what's this?
David: This is a plan of the cinema.
Sarah: Which cinema?
David: This cinema.
Sarah: It looks nothing like this cinema.
David: Look, its a plan of the cinema. Ok, this is us...
Sarah: Why don't I have a top on?
Sarah: I don't have a top on.
David: I don't have a top on either.
Sarah: Why haven't you got a top on?
David: Because its a drawing... look can we...
Sarah: What are these?
David: Those are the zombies?
Sarah: Why do they have their legs like that?
David: That's how zombies walk.
Sarah: No they don't
David: Yes they... have you seen zombies?
Sarah: yes, have you?
David: Look, they just walk like that okay? Legs out, arms up, "aaaaahh braaaiins." You've seen them.... Why is this so hard?

Pure gold baby ...

Chapter 3:The Bar
Rating: 8 out of 10

The Bar is about three mortal combat playing, scifi-movie debating booze hounds who have to make a run to the pub when their beer supply runs out. Come hell, high water, or zombie hordes, they're gonna do what it takes to get their piss on.

Okay, so I know what you're thinking. I said that Trapped in the Cinema was my favorite episode and yet I'm giving The Bar a higher score. Well that's because I'm torn between the episode's pure entertainment value and its obvious debt to Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson's Spaced as well as Shaun of the Dead. In fact, between the character similarities and the pub which looked a lot like the one at the end of Shaun, watching the episode felt like deja-vu all over again. In the end though, with its heavy share of witty pop culture references, fast paced dialog, and violence a-plenty, entertainment easily won out over the chapter's more derivative elements, and I couldn't help but fall in love with the characters (and feel a connection to them due to their love of beer).

Even though each of these three chapters have their own particular drawbacks, Dead City is an extremely fun way to spend a couple of hours. In fact, with a bit more funding, I could see Kennedy's zombie episodic having some major success as a BBC 2 production. I'd certainly tune in every week to see the latest episode of Dead City. Mr. Kennedy, if you're out there, take this thing to the BBC and make me some zomedy history!

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