Title: ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction
Director: Kevin Hamedani
Screenplay: Kevin Hamedani & Ramon Isao
Cast: Janette Armand, Doug Fahl, Cooper Hopkins, Russell Hodgkinson
As author Carol J. Clover points out in Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film that one of the main attractions of horror movies is the level of predictability that they generally offer audiences. Given the recent proliferation of certain “horror” movie subject matter — specifically, vampires and zombies — the challenge for filmmakers becomes walking the fine line between providing an acceptable and enjoyable degree of predictability and creating a film that is, well, too predictable.
Films like writer/director Kevin Hamedani’s ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction, released on DVD last week, attempt to overcome the predictability hurdle by combining traditional elements of zombie horror films with some degree of new subject matter. In the case of ZMD, Hamedani offers just the right amount of twist on the usual zombie tale by combining the prevalent American fear of terrorism with a zombie tale, throwing in a touch of comedic effect for good measure. The result? An entertaining, albeit poorly acted, story about a handful of people struggling to survive a zombie outbreak in the quiet island town of Port Gamble.
Each of the characters featured in Hamedani’s film are variations of general horror movie character types:
The Righteous Priest
Generally a closet homosexual or other “sinner” himself, the righteous priest is often preoccupied with saving the souls of those individuals transformed into zombies and usually meets his end while trying to convert or exorcise a parish member or local resident as he or she tries to munch on his flesh. Righteous priests often focus on the zombie outbreak as God’s punishment for sins committed by those infected and count themselves among those destined to be saved. Despite the righteous priest’s faulty logic and terrible decision making, audiences are subjected to his chastising and pontificating for a sizeable portion of the film as he condemns “sinners” and congratulates the righteous members of his community. Unfortunately for the righteous priest, this fact simply makes his inevitable death more enjoyable for viewers.
The Misled Elderly Man/Woman
Usually a parishioner or friend of the righteous priest, the misled elderly man or woman generally believes that he or she will not be affected by the zombie outbreak because of their religious beliefs and purity of heart and mind. Unfortunately, zombies aren’t punishment from God and the righteous don’t always survive the attacks, so the misled elderly man and/or woman often become zombie munchies before half the film is over.
The Closet Homosexual
The closet homosexual is often more prevalent in horror movies that feature characters like the righteous priest and the misled elderly man/woman. In this scenario, the closet homosexual, or homosexuals, stand tall in defiance of what their fellow characters believe, mainly that “sinners” are the only ones affected by the zombie plague and that the outbreak is punishment sent by God to separate the righteous from the impure. In some cases, the closet homosexual provides comic relief by “acting like a girl” while other male characters take the zombie outbreak as an opportunity to “man up.”
The Sexy Schoolgirl
When it comes to horror movies (and especially zombie films), being a young, attractive female generally means one of two things: either a) the hot chick will miraculously survive despite being ill-prepared for a zombie plague, or b) the sexy schoolgirl — in this case, a Princeton dropout named Frida (Janette Armand) — will suffer for her beauty (and whatever sexual transgressions she may or may not commit during the course of the movie) and die a horrible death at the hands (and teeth) of the undead. In the case of ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction, Frida is more than the average sexy schoolgirl, although she is placed in several of the situations that the sexy schoolgirl stereotypically faces in zombie movies: i.e., the zombies-ate-my-boyfriend scenario, the nerdy-boy-please-save-me scenario, etc. This time the sexy schoolgirl is complicated by her heritage as an Iranian-American and the resulting racism and even torture that she faces at the hands of the ignorant hick.
The Ignorant Hick
Although he may not know why the dead are coming back to life, the ignorant hick enjoys the widespread panic created by a zombie outbreak and takes pleasure in killing any and all zombies that get in his way. At first glance, Woody Harrelson’s character, Tallahassee, in Zombieland could be characterized as an ignorant hick, but Hamedani’s terrorist-obsessed, mentally unstable redneck Joe Miller (Russell Hodgkinson) is a much better example of this zombie movie staple. The ignorant hick tends to live much longer than the audience might expect given his stereotypical paranoid nature, his interest in guns, guns, and more guns, as well as the excessive displays of violence and destruction that he is responsible for in many cases.
The Secretly Violent Schoolteacher
The secretly violent schoolteacher featured in ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction — a hippie high school teacher named Cheryl Banks (Cornelia Moore) — is a stand-in for any secretly violent character that appears in a zombie movie. The occupation of that character isn’t what’s important; the secretly violent schoolteacher, gym teacher, cheerleading coach, church organist, elderly neighbor, restaurant owner, etc. stands for several things in the average zombie film, including the lengths that humans will go to for self-preservation as well as the breakdown of carefully constructed personal images that is incited by zombie outbreaks (or, in some cases, the zombie apocalypse).
Overall, ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction is well worth renting if you don’t want to splurge on a DVD that you haven’t seen yet. ZMD was released as one of the “Eight Films to Die For” DVD collection and is available wherever DVDs are sold. As a zombie film fan, I highly recommend taking a bite out of Hamedani’s film, as long as you can stomach a lot of disgusting gore and a few small segments of terrible acting. If you take the film for what it is — a relatively low-budget, interesting zombie movie — you’re sure to enjoy watching the characters as they make their way around the zombie-infested island of Port Gamble.
Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars