Directed by Thomas Berdinski
2010 – 191 minutes/Widescreen
DVD Provided byThe Cult of Moi and Vous Productions
Article written by Craig Hamann

“If it’s in the game, it’s in the game!” Those words are boldly spoken during every commercial for Madden Football for X-Box or PlayStation 3. The idea is that everything you can find in the real NFL pro game is jammed inside the Madden Football video game. But Madden Football is still a simulation. It might be a good simulation and even fun to play, but it’s not the real item. The same can be said for filmmaker Thomas Berdinski’s affectionate but mostly parodic tribute to Italian zombie movies. ZOMBIE ABOMINATION and ZOMBIE ATROCITY don’t look, sound, or feel like Italian walking dead flicks. Quite the contrary, they are the creative concoctions of horror buff fandom. Fortunately, they both also happen to be entertaining movies.

ZOMBIE ABOMINATION sets everything and everyone (including the audience) up. That’s when we find out that American military experiments involving antitoxin have gone disastrously wrong, causing some unwanted reanimations. It’s here that the audience meets an assortment of characters, some of them interesting and some not so watchable, and it’s also where the military clad zombies are introduced. ZOMBIE ATROCITY ties up the loose ends, offering verbal explanations, plenty of blood and guts splatter, and even a few plot twists in the process. Both productions are surprising in their efforts. Seriously now, there are slimy zombies all over the place, copious gross-out scenes, some optical work that may not make Universal Studios tremble but is absolutely commendable for the budget, and lots of laughs.

But does the execution of any of this translate as being Italian? Not really. Sure, there are plenty of tributes. For example, the opening eye-gouging scene is straight from the late and great Lucio Fulci. Many of the characters are named after Italian horror maestros and there are other references and tributes in different scenes throughout the story. Even so, the lurid sense of dread and the horrific ambience that the Italian filmmakers employed so often is nowhere to be found. In fact, Berdinski and his team work overtime to remind us that there is nothing serious going on at all. The unrelenting flow of one-liners and nonsensical dialogue, hilarious visual gags, plus the winking reminders that “we’re only kidding, folks” provides the cheesiness that has infested many zombie flicks. But if truth be told, it detracts from the outright creepiness one might expect from Fulci, Lenzi, Mattei, or other Italian genre legends. After watching this double bill, one might think they’ve just viewed an offbeat homage to Troma as opposed to having witnessed two Italian inspired zombie films.

While the overall title might be a bit misleading, that doesn’t mean Berdinski doesn’t provide his own flavor of good zombie filmmaking. This is a movie that is downright fun. The story is whacky, which is the way it should be for this kind of production, and the constant bloodletting and sloppy gore keeps things moving along rather well. There is a glut of exposition and much of it is covered in the dialogue, but not to worry, as there is always something weird waiting to happen in the next scene. Berdinski’s direction is relatively aggressive throughout the proceedings and his photography does a decent job of hiding whatever budgetary restrictions are present. Daniel Grams does a heck of a job with some of the miniature effects and, for the most part, the assortment of opticals is remarkably generated. One small complaint I have about the audio track is that I couldn’t always understand what some of the characters were saying. This was especially true when antitoxin creator Dr. Falluci had more than one line to say.

Writer/director/producer/cinematographer/editor Thomas Berdinski isn’t just a one-man band. Looking at the credits it appears that many people wore a lot of hats in this project. Some of the crew members were also actors. That’s not unusual for a low budget flick, but it can have a way of working against many projects. Here the results are mixed. As a whole, the acting isn’t great but it’s not awful either. Some of that is because it’s difficult to take a movie so immersed in tongue-in-cheek campiness seriously. That includes the performances. Probably the best role in the movie belongs to Daniel Grams as macho-dickhead Ruggero. Almost every line he has is a one-liner and his delivery fits the part. Psychic Catriona is an interesting role, but I thought pretty LaShelle Mikesell was hit and miss with her performance, sometimes being charming and other times reciting her lines as if she is reading from a grocery list. Laurie Beckeman is appropriately sexy and sharp-tongued as the deceptive Maria, while Keith Zahn is dubiously cast as the ass-kicking Jeremiah Revere. Wait until you see some of his awkward martial arts scenes. I’m not going to take time to name every cast member but I’ll give some props to Jeff Bromley as Sergeant Bruno Deodato and his twin brother Dario (how’s that for mixing Italian genre names?). Bruno is the guy at the center of the story and he’s the one that the audience is most inclined to root for during the mayhem. Bromley isn’t a top shelf actor but he’s likable in the role.

As a diehard zombie film fan, I’m glad I saw Berdinski’s THE ITALIAN ZOMBIE MOVIE. There isn’t all that much Italian about it, but it’s funny, inventive, and chock full of cool-looking zombies. The movie is so weird that I’m not even sure if they are serious about a third installment being in the works. But if it happens, then genre fans who adore zombie flicks shouldn’t miss it.