Sunday 5 January 2014

Zombiefication (2010)

Director: Stefan Lukacs
Stars: Lauren Cooke, Alexander T T Mueller, Lee Oscar Kirchberger and Ursula Weichhart
This film was an official selection at the 7th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2011. Here's an index to my reviews of 2011 films.
This film was an official selection at Phoenix FearCon IV in Tempe in 2011. Here's an index to my reviews of 2011 films.
This Austrian short is almost the definitive way to open a set of horror shorts at a film festival, as indeed it did at both FearCon IV and the International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival here in Phoenix in 2011. It's a faux infomercial that spoofs the spiel that we get from stewardesses at the beginning of flights. Instead of the dangers that might befall us at thirty thousand feet, this entry in the fictional but desirable Total Security Safety Films series addresses the threat of zombies. In the theatre. Yeah, this explains how to identify the living dead in the seats around you and what you can do about it if you find them. I wonder how many people who saw this in theatres really checked under their seats to see if they'd been left a chainsaw or baseball bat, you know, just in case. The catch, of course, is that it's a one joke movie, so while it can't fail to raise a smile on first viewing and prompt theatre owners to sign it up to precede all future screenings, it doesn't stand up to too many repeat viewings.

Beyond the strong idea and the perfect choice of backing muzak, what makes it work so well is the lady who presents these instructions to us. She's Lauren Cooke, credited as a flight-attendant, even though that's just the inspiration for her presentation, and she looks and sounds precisely as she should, never losing her composure even in the face of rather serious adversity. IMDb suggests that she was dubbed by Claudia Kottal, who isn't credited at the end of the film; if that's true she did an amazingly seamless job. Whoever the voice does belong to, it's the only one we hear throughout, suggesting that this is an Australian rather than an Austrian film. The script, written by director Stefan Lukacs, is agreeably funny, if inevitably predictable, and the effects work, always a key factor in any zombie flick, is strong, except for the obvious contact lenses. Cooke aside, it's really not the sort of picture that has opportunities for actors, but David Wurawa and Markus Scholze (I presume) make their presence known as living dead.

The downside is that the piece is slow and sedate, the approach inevitably forcing proceedings to stay safe and free of tension. It's not as internally consistent as it could be, possibly because it deliberately plays for laughs, whatever they might cost the script. I wonder how much better this could have been had Lukacs put the consistency first, with its reanimated corpses there but safely restrained, and built the laughs out of that. Instead he stays relatively close to the flight model, going so far as to translate some parts of the stewardess spiel almost intact, with merely the threat changed to fit. 'Please watch carefully,' she tells us, 'even if you've been a regular victim of zombiefication.' It seems a little unfair, though, to delve deeply into something that's clearly meant to raise a laugh and land the opening slot on horror short selections at festivals the world over. On that front it's a notable success, ensuring that people showing up late with popcorn find their seats pretty quickly, shut up and enjoy the show.

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