New to DVD: The Zombinator (2012) - Reviewed

The Zombinator is more impressive as a production than as a movie. It was shot in 4½ days with no script, using a handheld, documentary, style. Considering those conditions, it is well-made. It has some alright zombie makeup/gore, with a couple of decent kills. It can be difficult to see what is going on a lot of the time; however, that tends to happen in mockumentaries (it does not help visibility that most scenes are quite dark).

That said, it is not good. There are way too many scenes of its cast of college-age potential victims worrying about their love lives or generally behaving stupidly. It consistently loses track of its story, focusing on extraneous material, such as the oddly long sequence where they pray with a priest. The plot eventually leads to the title character, an Arnold Schwarzenegger impression played completely straight. There are a bunch of ideas that do not seem to belong in the same movie. A lot of this is weirdly entertaining, even though it is certainly a mess.

The premise is that a film crew is in Youngstown, Ohio to make a documentary about JoAnne, an aspiring fashion designer. After establishing the location as a place where many unexplained murders have occurred, JoAnne and her friends are attacked by zombies at a wake. The rest of the runtime consists of them yelling and running into danger, much to the dismay of their mysterious protector, The Zombinator. 

Wearing all black, including a leather jacket and sunglasses, and carrying a shotgun, The Zombinator is very obviously meant to remind us of Arnold’s Terminator. He mainly barks out orders and macho quips, while trying to sound as much like Arnold as he can. The character is strange and does not really fit with anything else in the movie. He is like something out of a zombie parody, yet he is seemingly supposed to be taken seriously. Or at least as seriously as prime butt-kicking Schwarzenegger. Regardless, he is amusing. Sadly, he gets sidelined for long stretches in favor of the interchangeable kids freaking out and arguing with each other.

Under the circumstances, The Zombinator does a pretty good job with its zombies. They are primarily in the dark, popping out for quick scares, before pouncing on their victims and ripping their flesh. Their makeup is not elaborate, but it is effective. The speed of zombies can be an issue in these movies; they get around that here by barely showing them move. There is little actual chasing, perhaps due to a lack of space. It is usually “character looks scared, cut to zombie, cut back to screaming character, zombie attack.” It appears far more thought was put into the zombies than anything involving the living. Except The Zombinator.

As can happen without a script, story is not its strength. First, there is the documentary setup material introducing the town. Then, the survival stuff kicks in, turning it into an ensemble horror movie. Finally, The Zombinator enters the fray, bringing his own plot with him. Mostly, things just happen for a while until there is sort of an ending. The Zombinator really does not work or make a lot of sense. Still, the attempt was admirable. It definitely was not boring.

--Ben Pivoz