31 Days of Halloween, Amsterdam, Ben Saunders, Carlo Boszhard, cinema, co-directors, Dutch film, Erwin van den Eshof, film reviews, films, foreign films, Gigi Ravelli, horror, horror movies, horror-comedies, Kill Zombie, Martijn Smits, Mimoun Ouled Radi, Movies, Nadia Poeschmann, Noel Deelen, rom-zom-coms, Sergio Hasselbaink, set in Netherlands, silly films, Tijs van Marle, Uriah Arnhem, Yahya Gaier, zombie apocalypse, zombies
By the time Martijn Smitt’s and Erwin van den Eshof’s Kill Zombie (2012) hits the three-minute mark, it has managed to pull off quite a hat trick and check just about every zom-rom-com cliché possible off the list: Beginning in the “wrecked” present before jumping to the pre-infection past? Check. Put-upon hero who works in an office, has a party-hard, worthless brother, a shitty boss, vulgar co-workers and an unrequited crush on the cutest girl in the office? Check infinity. Quest to save the hero’s “girlfriend” which will ultimately lead to the revelation that someone else actually, you know, like likes him? Check. Pseudo-dramatic moments as former friends/loved ones must grapple with becoming zombies, only to heroically save their friends with their last breathes? Well, maybe those last two revelations don’t take place before the credits have finished rolling but trust me: if you’ve seen at least one zombie-comedy in the last 15 years, you’ll be able to connect all of the dots pretty easily. New to the game? Well, sit back and let the “surprises” roll in, then, my friends: if this is your first race, you could probably pick a worse horse to limp you into the finish line…but not by much, I’d wager.
If Kill Zombie! offers any innovations to the standard zom-rom-com party-line, perhaps it comes from featuring a pair of Middle Eastern leads: to the best of my knowledge, that’s a first for a zombie film, foreign or otherwise. Besides that particular bit of casting acumen, however, everything else about the film will seem distinctly old hat. Unlike similar but slightly better films, however, Kill Zombie! has one mighty big albatross hanging from its gangrenous neck: the comedy is so broad that it approaches slapstick, a tendency which wears out its welcome almost immediately. I have absolutely nothing against comedy in horror films, mind you: I do have a huge problem with categorically stupid comedy, however, regardless of where it pops up.
Take, for example, the buffoonish characters of Nolan (Uriah Arnhem) and Jeffrey (Sergio Hasselbaink), the bodyguards who end up tagging along with main hero Aziz (Yahya Gaier) and his obnoxious brother, Mo (Mimoun Ouled Radi). It’s bad enough that we first get introduced to the pair as Jeffrey is busting out some sub-Karate Kid crane kicks but he then goes on to tase himself in the face (accidentally, since doing it on purpose would be…uh…stupid?), while Nolan gets his fingers stuck in a bowling ball. Nolan ends up winning the stupidity sweepstakes, however, when he gets bitten after stopping to take a bite of cake that a zombie is face-down in. Let me repeat that: Nolan gets bitten by a zombie after stopping to eat cake that, at the very least, is thoroughly polluted by a dead, rotted body. I’ll be frank: that revelation, alone, made my eyes roll so hard that I can swear I saw the bottom of my brain. I get that somebody could have the munchies during a zombie apocalypse: when somebody tries to eat zombie-cake, however, we like to call that a “plot contrivance” in my neck of the woods. The fact that the only two black characters in the film also happen to be the two most idiotic characters is, most likely, pure bad luck but the whole thing ended up leaving a pretty bad taste in my mouth, nonetheless.
But the stupidity doesn’t stop there, friends and neighbors…far from it. We also get the character of Joris (Noel Deelen), who comes up with the brilliant idea to rob a bank in the middle of a zombie apocalypse since, he wisely figures, the cops will be busy trying to avoid getting eaten. Smart move, buddy! We have the obligatory tough-as-nails female cop, Kim (Gigi Ravelli), who manages to go all weak-in-the-knees whenever the milquetoast Aziz looks her way because, you know, she’s a girl and stuff. We get a near-reference to Scarface’s (1983) oft-quoted “little friend” bit that gets cut off just so that the film can remind us how cliché said quote is, which is the equivalent of wearing a band t-shirt “ironically.” We get a celebrity cameo appearance when Dutch soccer star Ben Saunders shows up, as himself, only to be accidentally killed by one of the characters: since I actually had to look the guy up, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this little joke might just whiz right over a few folks’ noggins, bar the soccer fans in the house.
Most of the time, the film lurches from one mildly familiar setpiece to another terribly familiar one. A pair of zombie-fighting brothers by the name of Barachi appear, for a moment, seemingly so we can get a video game-inspired scene of them killing the undead and then disappear just as quickly. The film throws in a “twist” regarding the ultimate character of Aziz’s “beloved” Tess (Nadia Poeschmann) that seems to be more about “slut-shaming” her (How dare she like guys?! How dare she not fawn all over the “nice guy” who’s spent the entire film trying to save her, even though she doesn’t really even know who he is?!) than actually advancing the plot in any meaningful way. There’s the aforementioned “self-sacrificial” moment that’s so familiar, by this point, that it almost seems as iconic as shooting zombies in the cranium and a completely tedious, unnecessary and unpleasant scene where two of our protagonists bludgeon a third, who’s become a zombie, for what seems like five solid minutes: the scene is shot from the “dead” friend’s perspective and winds up being the only disturbing bit in the entire film, for reasons that the filmmakers probably didn’t intend.
From a filmmaking perspective, Kill Zombie! is competently made, for the most part, although the special effects and makeup tend to be very hit-or-miss. From an idea standpoint, however, everything about the film is thoroughly pedestrian and run-of-the-mill. Even the Amsterdam location ends up being fairly negligible: the film may as well have taken place in Chicago, Nepal, the bottom of the ocean or deep space, for all the difference it ends up making. The whole thing ends with a “twist” that sees our intrepid survivors gearing up to take on a new menace: as Aziz squares off, ready for battle, he snarls, “I hate vampires,” before launching himself into the fray. I’ll be honest: I don’t really have anything against vampires, per se, but if Smits and Eshof are involved, I’m pretty sure that I could learn to hate them, too.