Part mockumentary, part unabashed gore-fest, American Zombie follows filmmakers Grace Lee and John Solomon — both playing themselves — as they infiltrate a Los Angeles zombie community in an effort to document the undead subculture. Finding that the reanimated aren’t much different from the rest of us — save for some patches of rotting flesh — the moviemakers offer a comical look at their marginalized subjects.
Director: Grace Lee
Writers: Grace Lee, Rebecca Sonnenshine
Austin Basis … Ivan
Roger Ainslie … Jim Miller
Andrew Amondson … Himself
Alice Amter … Esperanza McNunn
Kasi Brown … Maude
Katarina Dorsey … Attacking Zombie
John Durbin … Howl
Monique Edwards … Cheryl Park
Finneus Egan … Stag
Yuri Elvin … Zombie Guard Yuri
John Jarvis … Lead
Gerry Katzman … Mr. Right
James M. Logan … Bible Study Guy (as James Jim Smith)
Ossie Mair … Dr. Stan Boyd
Raymond Ma … Factory Owner
Andi Matheny … Beverly Fitzpatton
Paulah May … Zombie Instigator / festival dancer
Suzy Nakamura … Judy
Philip Newby … Rodrigo Weiss
Vanessa Peters … Monique
Micki Schloss … Frank Velasco
John Solomon … Himself
Jose Solomon … Glen
Tracy Thorpe … Neighbor
María Antonieta Vázquez … Church Zombie
Al Vicente … Joel
Kevin Michael Walsh … Kennedy
Jane Edith Wilson … Lisa
This was a pretty good movie. I was very impressed. I was very interested the whole way through, however the end kept me from thinking this was a great movie. It tried to become scary, creepy and introspective, but instead just came off as if they decided to make a different movie for the remainder of the movie. I think it is still worth the watch for most zombie fans. There isn’t that much gore, so if you have to have gore skip the movie.
Voracious D’s Review:
A zombie mockumentary. By concept alone, Grace Lee’s “American Zombie” is worth the price of admission. If you’ll forgive me that phrasal faux pas (really, “worth the price of admission”? What am I, moviefone.com?), I’d like to continue. Grace Lee and John Solomon have put together a truly entertaining look at the zombie population, as it exists in the modern suburban sprawl. From zine-writing convenience store clerks, fixtures in the postmodern zombie expressionist art movement, organizers for equal rights (and equal profits) for Zombie Americans, to the average zombie on the street just looking to fit in, “American Zombie” runs a gamut of personalities without watering them down into stereotypes. The humor in this movie is dark, of course, but done in a very understated way that harkens of “The Office.” Solomon and Lee foil nicely, the established documentary director clashing with the trauma room filmmaker and failed monster movie maven in scenes that really make the first quarter of the movie. Ivan (Austin Basis), part-indie comic artist, part-skater, all zombie, is another standout.
I was once subjected to Cheryl Dunye’s “Dunyementary,” “The Watermelon Woman,” which had the similar goal of fusing the real life director, Dunye, with the fictional account of a fictional subject and bridged by narrative. What really struck me was the way that Dunye’s false documentary about a potentially real person with real situations rang less true than Lee and Solomon’s mockumentary about figures that, at present, aren’t real at all.
Of course, this film has its drawbacks. The most striking of which is the most written about: the ending. This is where the “unabashed gore-fest” mentioned above comes into play. One big problem is that it isn’t “unabashed.” In fact, it is very abashed (which I only learned was a word after watching this movie). Trying to keep in a realistic mode of cinematography, much of the action and gore is cut off as a handheld camera is dropped and catches nothing but woods, feet or nothing in particular. Now, this may be a cover for low budget filmmaking, except for the fact that the few seconds of hot zombie action are phenomenal. This is where I went to my other theory, that it was “realism” that they were going for. Sort of in the vein of “The Blair Witch Project.” The problem with that is that the main thrust and horror behind “The Blair Witch Project” was the fact that the monster was a mystery. There is no doubt who the monsters are and what they’re capable of in “American Zombie,” so the teasing camera angles don’t add to the suspense, just to a sense of frustration.
Speaking of frustration, the entire ending segments felt long, as if there was a quota for film length that needed to be met. This is in large part to the filming techniques mentioned above. However, the final quarter of the film just wasn’t up to par with what came before. The humor was shifted into some watered down horror ploy, which didn’t have enough time to play out and wasn’t executed with any kind of fluidity, like being raped without proper lubrication. That was hyperbole, but still, I got the same feeling as most, that there was a second film that was grafted on in the final half hour. I could see where the filmmakers were going, trying to kick things up a notch, but it didn’t quite work according to plan.
All that said, I would still recommend watching “American Zombie.” It’s a unique take on the zombie film genre and it deserves a viewership that supports and demands more original and creative movies in this style.