In search of new taste thrills, I scour local festival schedules for films that sound as if they might tickle my fancy. The National Film Theatre, of which I am a member, holds an annual Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. While this has no bearing on my own preferences, I have over the years found films featured in their programmes which sound right up my street. This low-budget zombie movie from first-time writer-director Kevin Hamedani was billed as a gory treat -- and so it was!
Set on the all-American island community of Port Gamble, there is a sudden outbreak of zombieism amongst the all-too-typical townsfolk. While there is no explanation for this, in the current political climate the media assumes that it must be some kind of terrorist attack. Meanwhile the local fire-and-brimstone preacher believes that Armaggeddon has arrived and that only the virtuous will survive. Counterpointed against these assumptions, the main protagonists are a college-girl of Iranian descent and a devoted gay couple who are visiting the island to "come out" to the locally-raised one's mother. While all three roles are taken by novice film actors, they all strike the right note and add to the film's humour and studied bad taste.
When the young man baulks at telling the truth to his Mum (who complains earlier that she has been bitten by the butcher while buying dinner), he finally blurts out his sexual preferences only to find that she has turned into a foaming-at-the mouth zombie. 'That's kind of like how my father reacted' quips his paramour. The attractive American-Iranian girl, a nice turn from young actress Janette Armand, is constantly called an Iraqi by her dim neighbours and boyfriend. When the gung-ho man from next door decides to torture her to get her to confess her involvement in the current outbreak, he decides that she can't possibly be a real American or she wouldn't know why, for example, there are thirteen stars on the U.S. flag, since the average teenager would have no idea! By and large the dialogue is similarly witty throughout and there is one lovely bit of bad taste from the local minister who refers to Christ, history's greatest zombie, as being on his side -- as the first of the living dead.
Being a low-budget outing with a largely inexperienced cast of variable ability, the director's scattergun technique occasionally misfires. However Hamedani's use of gore is generally inventive (in the best tradition of zombie films) and there are frequent jump-in-your-seat shocks, like when Armand promises to protect a scared, non-infected youngster, promptly leads her in the path of an oncoming car, and is left holding only one arm!
Having two attractive and fairly amusing gay men in pivotal roles accounts for this film's inclusion in this particular festival, but the movie would have been just as successful and politically relevant overall with a pair of straight friends as leads. As I've often written before, this is not great film-making in any sense, but it is definitely a rather promising debut, and it was great fun on a grey Sunday afternoon.