Let’s face it, Steve Miner is a hack director. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – his Halloween sequel, Lake Placid, Warlock and House fall perfectly into Andrew Sarris’s ‘lightly likeable’ category (ie: watchable, undemanding fun), and Friday the 13th Part 2 was at least not appreciably worse than most other entries in the series. However, this credit is demeaning. It’s an in-name-only, shot-in-Bulgaria remake of George Romero’s 1984 picture, which then seemed the conclusion of his zombie trilogy, with thirteen credited producers (including the folks responsible for Day of the Dead 2: Contagium and busy Boaz Davidson) and a clutch of actors who perhaps thought they were signing up for something on the scale of the Dawn of the Dead remake. Scripted by Jeffrey Reddick, whose most notable credit is Final Destination, it’s a by-rote zombie epidemic picture with not a single new idea (I’ll take that back – it is the first film I can think of which has an animated sequence set inside the head of a person on the point of becoming a zombie, showing his lit-up synapses going out and being replaced by black murk).
A small town in Colorado is cordoned off by the inept military as a flulike bug runs through the population – after a few hours of nose-bleeds and coughing, infectees die and come back as very fast zombies with Resident Evil-style crawl-on-the-ceiling powers and a enough smarts to make things inconvenient in action scenes. Sarah (Mena Suvari), a soldier girl returning to her home town, commands a small group of survivors: her tagalong brother Trevor (Michael Welch), his hot girlfriend Nina (AnnaLynne McCord), ‘vegetarian zombie’ Bud (Stark Sands), who has a crush on the corporal, and Salazar (Nick Cannon), an obnoxious asshole (the fast-talking African-American with attitude is the contemporary stereotype equivalent of Stepin Fetchit). Rhodes (Ving Rhames, held over from the Dawn remake) is still a military maniac, but gets zombified a reel or two in; Dr Logan (male model-looking Matt Rippy) is only here to be unhelpful until a video explanation of how the plague got started (a mutating bioweapon) needs footnoting; and a local DJ (Ian MacNeice) does eccentric comedy before getting a chisel to his head.
Most of the film involves running around town during the outbreak, like a cheaper AVP: Requiem, though the hospital scenes are also reminiscent of Planet Terror. The climax takes place in an underground scientific base attached to a missile silo – which is similar to the setting of Romero’s film. As with Contagium, the major problem is hubris: under another title and as a stand-alone, derivative zombie picture, it’d be midlist but just about passable (especially compared with the likes of Raiders of the Dead or Rise of the Undead); by selecting this title, the production stands as an insult to the the founder of the sub-genre (who must be cursing that rights quirk) and a self-defeating exercise in what-the-fuckery. The only reason this movie exists is that the title was available for further exploitation; frankly, that’s not good enough.