Saturday, 15 March 2008

Zombie '90: Extreme Pestilence (1991)

You know, you could just substitute the entire film with this image.

It's never a good sign when an entire feature film is included as a "bonus feature" on a DVD. Andreas Schnaas second directorial effort, Zombie '90: Extreme Pestilence, is included on the Zombie Doom DVD, much like a dead rat carries the bubonic plague.

Through the wonder of stock footage, a military aircraft carries "lethal, toxic, untested chemicals" on a secret mission. Inevitably it crashes, unleashing a zombie plague. In a nearby hospital, Dr. Simon is conducting an autopsy. He extracts organs whole and unmolested from the incision... maybe that's why he died? After fighting his way a gaggle of spotty reporters, Dr. Burns (the same guy who played Dr. Senius in Zombie Doom) busts into the operating theater, and as the corpse rises from the operating table and starts playing with it's intestines, he shoots it in the head.

Dr. Burns insists that he and Dr. Simon take one of the zombie bodies back to his private laboratory so they can experiment on it in peace and maybe discover something about zombie physiology. After a gruesome autopsy, the two doctors head into the forest with a Geiger counter (played by a multimeter), don hazmat suits and gas masks and try and find the location of the aircrash.

The adventures of the two doctors are randomly punctuated by unconnected zombie attacks. A dude is cut in half by a zombie with a chainsaw, who proceeds to play around with the intestines like he's pulling taffy. A couple of zombies cut the breasts off a girl (hey Umberto, they're stealing your bit!) as she prepares to take a shower. Another girl gets her genitals mutilated, a Schnaas directorial stamp, much like Kubrick's corridor compositions. A wheelchair bound woman is decapitated with an axe and her baby (played by a doll filled with raw meat) pulled to pieces etc etc ad nauseum.

Eventually Dr. Simon is killed, and the film concludes with Dr. Burns taking an unconvincing tumble in the woods, subjecting us to a 10 minute dream sequence in an abandoned house. The whole sequence seems like an excuse to work in the location, but despite the potentially spooky surrounds, attempts at building suspense and atmosphere are woeful. During the dream he is attacked by a couple of zombies and then woken up by an actual zombie, who munches on his guts. Cue credits, which state that the film is produced by "The Violent Shitters, Hamburg". You may want to see a doctor about that, guys.

A film like this is really just a showcase for gore effects, but even they aren't particularly ambitious or creative. In most cases a guy in bad zombie makeup plays around with raw meat (rarely the appropriate cut, I saw someone pull a spinal column out of someone's stomach... very sloppy Schnaas) while being squirted with red paint. The cast is recruited from the "friends and family" school of acting. The top tier actors are those who can refrain from laughing or looking at the camera. The editing and lighting are terrible, the soundtrack consists of a few looped pieces of synthesizer twaddle.

The dub job, however, is one of the few things that makes this film watchable. That's not to say it's good; it's just so utterly bizarre. Dr. Burns (a very white German guy) is dubbed like a superfly black dude and Dr. Simon like a whiny cartoon sidekick. It's pretty obvious that most of the dialog was dubbed in off the cuff, with no attention paid to synchronising lip movement or making any sense. The film is at it's most entertaining when Dr. Burns commands his injured partner: "Don't bleed!" or says of a zombie: "Im'a run over his dick." Sometimes the film looks like it's making a genuine (if unsuccessful) attempt to build atmosphere, but then Dr. Burns sees a black, mustachioed zombie and shouts "It's Jimi Hendrix!". It's almost like watching an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

It's hard to say whether this film is meant to be taken seriously, but I'm not about to give it a free pass if it's not. It sucks. In his later films, Shnaas developed a sense of humour, and his movies benefitted as a result. This film is really just a bunch of mulleted Germans playing around with a few gallons of red paint and raw meat. I'm sure it was a lot of fun, but I don't know why they had to film it.

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