Saturday, 16 February 2008

Zombie Doom (1999)

Behold the paunchy, tin-masked fury of Der Meister (Andreas Schnaas)

Zombie Doom is also known under the more appropriate title, Violent Shit III - The Infantry of Doom. Yes, it is the third in a series of films entitled Violent Shit. Apparently the name came about when a friend of writer/director Andreas Schnaas told him that all he was making was "violent shit", and rightly so. All three films concern the homicidal exploits of Karl the Butcher (and his son, Karl Jr), a masked villain in the slasher mould, played by Schnaas himself.

The first film, Violent Shit, resembles an unfinished film school project rather than a feature film. On it's release in Germany it was quickly banned on account of the graphic sexual violence, which gave it an immediate cult following. The poor film quality, inaudible dialogue, horrible acting, insufficient lighting and terrible editing would render it incomprehensible, were there anything to comprehend. Most of the running time focuses on Karl's victims being slowly dissected, but the gore effects are far too cheap to stand up to this kind of scrutiny and quickly become boring.

By the second film (Violent Shit 2 - Mother Hold My Hand) Schnaas had developed a sense of humour and slightly better technical skills. The film starts with a mildly amusing kung fu parody, but soon settles down into some of the same problems as the first film... extended gore sequences that the budget can't support.

The third film is his most ambitious yet. It actually has a story! Karl Jr is now calling himself Der Meister and lives on an island with an army of masked psychopaths, overseen by his father Karl the Butcher. There are only about a dozen soldiers (and they look more like LARPers than soldiers) but Shnaas tries his best to make it look like more. Dr Senius, a mad scientist with a Hitler moustache, is trying to create a zombie army so Der Meister can take over the world (or something).

Three bickering imbeciles, Ron, Mark and Peter, manage to shipwreck themselves on the island and are quickly captured by Der Meister's flunkies. They are then tied up and forced to watch as Der Meister executes a bunch of traitorous henchmen. Mark provides some insight on their situation, via voiceover. Says he, "The world is full of puke and shit, and now a bunch of tin-masked assholes are puking in our faces, filled with shit." Auteur, auteur! Peter makes the mistake of insulting Der Meister and gets the sharp end of his henchman's spear.

Following this excruciatingly long scene, Der Meister decides to let the three men go (along with another former henchman of his, Leon) so his men can hunt them down for sport. Yep, it's another retelling of The Most Dangerous Game. As well as the masked soldiers, Dr Senius also sends out his personal army, the Black Demon ninjas. During a quiet moment, Leon tells Ron and Mark his life story. Apparently, he turned against Der Meister when, during one of their evil ceremonies, his wife was stripped (two words, Lady Bic) , raped and then subjected to a hilarious stop-motion critter that would have Ray Harryhausen turning in his grave. Soon Ron and Mark, who have up until now been established as our protagonists, are dead. I would like to believe that Schnaas is pulling some Psycho-style shenanigans, but I think it's more likely that the script was being written on the fly.

Eventually Leon joins up with two of his friends, also exiles of Der Meister, and when the Black Demon ninjas arrive the film breaks out into a kung fu fight. The opening sequence from Violent Shit 2 was short enough such that Schnaas' lack of skills didn't become too much of a problem, but here the martial arts fights are a lot more elaborate. While the actors obviously have some skills, the end result is fairly mediocre. A bit of subtle undercranking would have helped.

The Black Demon ninjas disposed of, the trio disguise themselves and head back to Der Meister's training camp for the final showdown. Scavenging weapons from the masked soldiers (magic weapons, like sawn-off shotguns that fire single shells, and revolvers that can fire hundreds of shots without needing to be reloaded) they blast their way through the camp. Soon Leon, who was set up as the replacement protagonist, dies as well. What the hell?

The two remaining ninjas kill Senius, and square up against Der Meister (who is wearing frightening furry underwear) and Karl Senior. After a lengthy battle sequence, including a battle with the Master of the Motherfucking Flying Guillotine, Der Meister and Karl the Butcher are killed. The two heroes celebrate with the international symbol of victory, a freeze-framed jumping high-five.

At times this film shows a lot of promise. Schnaas pulls off some fairly interesting camera work and gore effects, and at times it seems like a decent imitation of early Peter Jackson. Given a decent budget, I can see Schnaas turning out something entertaining, if not exactly mentally challenging. However, this film has too much working against it: unlikable characters, nonsensical dialogue and a non-sequitor plot that I gave up trying to make sense of about fifteen minutes in. The gore effects are decent, but until Schnaas can achieve a baseline competence with basic storytelling, he isn't going to have enough to hang a movie from. But at least he's improving.

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