Bong of the living Dead (2017)
Film review #541
Director: Max Groah
SYNOPSIS: a group of friends obsessed with zombies and getting high find their fantasies have come true and the zombie apocalypse is here. Unfortunately, their fantasy about fighting in the zombie apocalypse falls short of their expectations…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Bong of the Living Dead is a 2017 zombie film, and is not related to the previously reviewed 2010 Bong of the Dead (there just happens to be a “budding” market for films about zombies and weed apparently). The film mostly centres on a group of childhood friends who grew up imagining what to do in the zombie apocalypse, and have now grown up to smoke weed and talk about the zombie apocalypse. The group finally gets their wish though, as zombies start appearing and they can start preparing their plan for survival…or just get high. I don’t know. The film tries to do quite a lot in terms of it’s story and genre: it’s a stoner comedy film, but also a meta-zombie apocalypse film that riffs on the tropes of the genre, but also takes a dark and dramatic turn for the last twenty minutes when the reality of the situation catches up to the cast. A such, it feels like it’s trying to do too many things at once, and there’s no core around which the film coheres. A lot of the film does involve the characters just getting high, which I guess would be the dominant theme, but the comedy just isn’t there to make it a simple stoner flick: as mentioned, it tries to go for a meta-take on the zombie apocalypse, but this commentary is loosely scattered through the film, and doesn’t take root. It feels like it wants to do a Shaun of the Dead-esque approach in this regard, but also a bunch of other things too.
The characters each have their own personalities and set themselves apart, but most of them don’t really come across a likable. The wobbly acting is perhaps intentional for the most part as it attempts to in-part parody low-budget zombie movies, but the actors do a decent job of handling the more emotional and dramatic scenes at the end; however, it is still a bit jarring when you have spent the film not taking them seriously. I’m not quite sure about the setting of the film: one of the main characters runs a DVD rental store, which doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that would actually exist in 2017, and there’s no mobile phones anywhere, which makes me think that maybe it’s set in the early 2000s, but there’s no reference to the timeframe, so again, it’s another element that seems a bit unclear. This is certainly an indie film, but definitely not a one-man show created nearly entirely by one person: this has a full crew attached, as evidenced by the near-full credits that roll about twenty minutes in with the title card. I’m not opposed to the idea of having credits at the start of a film (this is the way they were originally presented), but to have them show up as the first act of the film ends and bring it to a stand still for nearly five minutes is pretty disruptive for the film’s pacing.
In terms of the film’s production, there’s a decent amount of competence with regards to how it’s filmed; nothing too special, but it works. The makeup on the zombies looks good, and there’s a decent amount of gore when there needs to be, but the film seems to refuse to capture anything violent on film, and any physical violence on the zombies cuts away just as it happens, or is partially obscured. I’m guessing this is either to do with trying to secure the film’s rating, or having no way of making it look convincing without hurting the actors. Either way, it is a noticeable hole in the film. Overall, it feels like Bong of the Living Dead wants to both be a stoner zombie movie, while also being a commentary on the stoner movie…while also adding a serious side to the stoner zombie movie. You’ve got a lot of sitting around smoking weed, some nudity, and some zombie whacking, while the plot point about the characters being zombie movie buffs setting up a meta-narrative doesn’t really go anywhere. The last act switching to a much darker tone as the events of the film start to take their toll on the cast does have some emotional weight to it eventually, but when you’ve been watching these people just smoke weed and base their personality on one-dimensional comedy traits, then trying to make you care for them in the last twenty minutes is a huge uphill climb that the film makes for itself, made worse by the way some of these characters act just makes them downright unlikeable. Credit to the film for trying to do something a little different, it just tries to do too many things a little different…