Cinematic Releases: Anger of the Dead

Andrew takes on Age of the Dead...or is it Anger of the Dead?

Despite being overdone to death in low budget offerings like this one or mainstream television shows like The Walking Dead, the zombie horror genre has a close kinship with it's undead adversaries in that it simply will not lay down and die.  Year after year, 5 or 6 of these things come out both because of their built in audience and because, for some reason or another, it serves as a starting point for newcomers to break into the film business.  The high points of the zombie genre for 2015 lie with titles like the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Maggie, the snarky and hip Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Freaks of Nature.  On the lower tier, however, is Age of the Dead...or is it Anger of the Dead?  Already off to a bad start by flip flopping it's own title and simply being another hand-me-down Night of the Living Dead, it gets worse when producer Uwe Boll's name shows up on the credits.  Considering his own dabbling in the zombie genre with the spectacularly awful and inept videogame movie House of the Dead, it stands to reason Boll's seal of approval isn't something anyone among the living and undead asked for.

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Stealing immediately from Zack Snyder's overproduced but solid remake of Dawn of the Dead with a young mother who finds her house being turned upside down by an invasion of the undead, Anger of the Dead proceeds over the course of two hours to recycle trope after trope of the zombie genre before inexplicably tossing a dash of Martyrs in for no discernible reason.  Amid the band of survivors fleeing the city before running around in the woods for the remainder of the film, indicative of budgetary constraints, there's a subplot involving a band of rapists who kidnap, imprison and perform bizarre medical experiments on women which feels cut and pasted from Martyrs.  Even a shot of an escapee running for her life bloodied, bruised and half-naked, feels lifted directly from the opening scene of Martyrs and winds up being completely distracting as a result.  When it isn't shoehorning this needless and derivative subplot into the picture, we're stuck with nondescript interchangeable and underwritten stereotypes for our band of survivors.  Say what you will about Zack Snyder remaking arguably the greatest zombie film of all time, Dawn of the Dead, but in both the original and the remake you could tell who was who and you felt something when their lives were endangered.  Here, it's hard pressed to remotely begin to care about anyone.  

There's another trope of the zombie film (and in particular modern action movies) that I really can't stand and was among the reasons Eli Roth's The Green Inferno did not get brownie points from yours truly: frame dropping.  Pioneered by Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, dropping frames from the footage increases the speed or at least our perception of it, making things move at a breakneck pace.  In horror films, particularly ones digitally photographed with the Red One camera, it's easy to hide a low budget film's shortcomings whether it be weak prosthesis or uninteresting locations by shaking the camera about and dropping frames to make it all look like a rapid fire blur.  The difference between Saving Private Ryan's frame dropping is that it was used judiciously and in key points.  In the case of Anger of the Dead, it's constant and becomes irritating instantaneously.  Even rifling through the trunk of a car is shown in this manner and thus we become numb to whatever tension the filmmakers were hoping to achieve.  In Uwe Boll's defense, despite being among the worst directors working today, at least House of the Dead, however inane, offered something unique and mildly entertaining in an ironic sense.  Anger of the Dead by contrast is a dull and boring stillborn that will be forgotten before catching the drift of even the most staunch zombie fans.


-Andrew Kotwicki