The trump card for this film is that it falls into a genre which not only accepts the over theatrical, ludicrous and downright messy, but positively demands it
Zombies of Mass Destruction Blu-ray ReviewThe first couple of scenes give us a fair idea of what we are going to be in for - a chocolate box town somewhere in nowheresville USA, otherwise known as Prot Gamble, full of smiling faces, nods hello and the usual pleasantries of suburban middle class living. There is no real explanation for the outbreak that starts turning the inhabitants into undead flesh-munchers, but that hardly matters in this type of fodder. The cast of characters follows the usual staple of apocalyptic tales, namely introducing a cross section of stereotypes and leaving the audience to guess which will reach the end unscathed. Central to these is Frida, a young Iranian-American woman who we quickly learn has dropped out of Princeton and is drifting fairly aimlessly back in what the director is keen to point out is a fairly shallow pool of life. It is at this early stage that you may start to hear a few alarm bells ringing. With Hamendani being Iranian-American himself, the worry of a director using his work to put his personal grievances to right starts to loom as an even more worrying shadow than that of the hungry undead. Enter the next key characters – a gay couple, Tom and Lance, heading back to Tom’s hometown in order to tell his aging mother that Tom is in fact gay. To say that this is left-leaning material would be understating the matter. Just about every scenario that could be used to make a point about Middle-America and its skewed values, is rammed home.
Perhaps, in a country that still shows a significant proportion of its residents think that the President is Muslim, Hamendani believes he needs a sledgehammer to get his point across. The problem being that for his intended audience, who will largely be in his corner from the off, this kind of heavy handed approach was not necessary. The whole political aspect of the “zomedy” is so amazingly lacking in subtlety or deftness with the regards of intricate subject matter that it could almost be a double bluff made by Fox News and funded by the Republican party. Everyone with religion is obviously automatically homophobic and parishioners carry guns to church, nobody can tell the difference between Iran and Iraq, or much cares anyway and the mayor of the town is actually called Hal E. Burton. Considering Hamendani is quoted as saying he “wanted it to be funny, but not campy” I fail to see how he intended to integrate such a lack of finesse into anything below the level of ultimate hamminess.
Zombies of Mass Destruction Blu-ray Picture QualityZombies of Mass Destruction comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p resolution encoded with the VC-1 codec and framed within a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The disc itself is region free.
For a film with relatively humble roots and a low budget, it’s hard not to be impressed by the image quality that is presented on this disc from Optimum. It shines the best when in bright light, with the results being great fine detail and sumptuous colours. The palette sways a little depending on the type of lighting and surroundings, but it is never what you’d call artificial, more stylised, bordering on vivid. Occasionally a touch of softness creeps into even exterior shots in good light, but from the manner in which it changes I’d say this was far more likely attributable to the cinematography than a problem with the disc. Generally speaking daytime scenes and close-ups show the greatest quality, with crisp edges and some excellent fine texture detail seen in clothing and the like.
As with anything shot for less than a million dollars, especially those which utilise a fair chunk of change for effects, the trickier shots show up the film’s budgetary constraints. In low light blacks suffer, a certain amount of the fine detail goes AWOL, there is a slight tendency towards crushing and blooming and there’s a hint of noise, though not in a manner that is strikingly obvious or will likely detract from your viewing pleasure. Skin tones also suffer a touch, moving a little from wan to pinkish, but these are all very much minor nitpicks compared to how much there is to commend with this lo-fi title. It may drop down a level in places, but this is arguably only truly noticeable because of just how good it proves it can look.
Zombies of Mass Destruction Blu-ray Sound QualityThere are two audio options available – English Linear PCM 2.0 and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
It doesn’t take a genius to guess that the 2.0 track was the original and it has been deemed necessary to perform a bit of technical jiggery-pokery to give the punters their much loved surround sound which is so often seen as a prerequisite of purchasing such a disc. Well, in truth they’ve got it half right as both contain their flaws.
The strange thing is that the 2.0 option gives a more layered feel to as the ambience is understandably mixed in with the rest of the sounds presented to us. For the 5.1, they’ve stripped away a certain amount and deemed them either necessary to bleed through the rears or they figured they needed something to put there – they didn’t. The rears are almost redundant and what there is falls so far short of “surround sound” that it actually can feel detrimental to the experience. The one area the 5.1 track gets right, in some ways, is the centre channel. Through the LPCM option the speech feels a touch more naturalistic, but sometimes at the expense of actually being particularly intelligible – it can become too integrated in the rest of the sounds emanating from the front pair to be distinct. By switching it to the centre, it has been eroded of some character (for want of a better word), due to the processing, but the result is far more clearly prioritised in comparison to the ambience.
What is slightly shocking is the underuse of the LFE channel available to the Master Audio track. Lighting, gunshots and explosions should not, in any scenario, seem as potent, as a simple pair of front speakers. Similarly the score, with its The Thing-esque echoing four notes of deep dread seems just as solid, if not more so, coming from the 2.0 variant which is disappointing. What we have here are two tracks that each have their own strengths and weaknesses, one (2.0) feels more naturalistic and environmental effects in voices are more clear, but the shift to the centre speaker (5.1) makes everything that bit more level and concise – quite which you’ll prefer is likely a matter of taste.
Zombies of Mass Destruction Blu-ray ExtrasTrailer – 1080p – 1:41
Making of – 576p – 5:26
A remarkably brief look at a scant few aspects of the production. Hamendani pops up a couple of times to utter a sentence or two as do various cast members, but so little is actually said that it’s hard to gauge how this counts as a “making of”. The only real content is the constant stream of production shots, extras and the like which basically leave the viewer to gain their own titbits from.
Is Zombies of Mass Destruction Blu-ray Worth BuyingZombies of Mass Destruction can neither summon the sharp political commentary nor the laugh-out-loud moments its makers so clearly desired. It was evidently made for an American market and perhaps as such has strayed a touch too far for it to gain recognition, as the broad strokes of attempted comedy and simplistic characterisations do not generally fall within the realms of what most British audiences would categorise as satire.
The disc has a surprisingly strong image that belies its lo-fi fright-fest roots. The audio is a mixed affair, with neither track proving a standout candidate for your attention, but at least there are two lossless options available. The extras sadly are so ephemeral that they barely warrant a mention – this is budget material but surely a few morsels wouldn’t be too much to ask for?
The true tragedy of the film is that it isn’t without its plus points – there are a few choice deaths, some satisfactorily grisly moments, decent special effects (within reason) and a moral that might have been worthy of a feature film. However, these transitory moments are all too fleeting and are simply too entrenched in the maelstrom of supposed social commentary that is flying around to be genuinely enjoyable. Mired in the director’s ham-fisted holier-than-thou political message, they die quicker than a zombie staring down the barrel of a shotgun.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.