• Film reviews

    #541 – Bong of the Living Dead (2017)

    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…

  • Film reviews

    #383 – Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

    Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

    Film review #383

    Director: John McPhail

    SYNOPSIS: Anna is about to finish high school and plans to travel for a year before going to university, much to her dad’s disapproval. However, a zombie outbreak and the onset of the apocalypse have altered her plans somewhat, and Anna and her school friends must find a way to survive the end of the world…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSISAnna and the Apocalypse is a 2017 comedy/horror musical. The film starts off introducing Anna, a high school student who is planning on having a gap year before starting university, much to her Dad’s dismay. Anna and her friends also have plenty of problems at school including the new authoritarian headteacher and the usual teenage trouble. All of these issues are bypassed however, when a zombie outbreak occurs and Anna must find a way to survive with her friends and find her father. The story is fairly standard and doesn’t offer a deep lore-filed story. It’s a zombie outbreak like every other zombie outbreak, and it isn’t integral to the story to go into detail with regards to its origins. What makes the film stand out is that it is also a musical, ending up as a musical.comedy/horror hybrid, the film takes on a lot of different tones, but for the most part I think it does a good job of handling the variety well.

    The characters are well defined, and each of the students has their own personality and reacts to the apocalypse differently, which is the sort of diversity you would expect from a group of teenagers. The musical numbers also help in this regard, as each of the main characters has at least a song in which they express their emotions and opinions in a unique way.The songs aren’t so memorable that you’ll remember them after the film has ended, but they are catchy and enjoyable so that a wide range of people will enjoy them. They also help in allowing the viewer to invest in the characters and their emotions, which leaves more of an impact when they die…and they do die, because this film does get quite dark in places and makes you feel the weight of their sacrifices.

    Anna and the Apocalypse is not a big production affair, but it doesn’t need to be, as it keeps its focus on the characters and small-scale scenes that feel very personal. I suppose it also counts as a Christmas movie, although it’s definitely not very festive. I can’t find much to criticise in this film: it works within its boundaries and creates a simple story crossing genres, with a diverse cast and personal interactions augmented by serviceable performances and music. It’s not rewriting the genre, but it’s more than entertaining enough to sit through as an alternative Christmas movie.