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Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'Reel Zombies'

Dennis King Published: February 11, 2014
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This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:

“Reel Zombies”

Zombie movies are so ubiquitous these days that it seems impossible for anyone to successfully parody them. But a pair of low-budget film fringe-dwellers gives it a decidedly moldy try with “Reel Zombies” (due out on DVD Tuesday).

Veteran B-makers Mike Masters and David J. Francis (responsible for the universally and zestfully panned “Zombie Night,” among other horrors) employ a mildly clever “movie within the movie” ploy to tell a macabre tale of two horror auteurs – oddly enough, named Mike Masters and David J. Francis – who, in the wake of a recent zombie-virus outbreak, come up with a gory brainstorm. With zombies rampaging around everywhere, why not use these undead ghouls as actors to complete the third installment of “Zombie Night,” their supposed master trilogy?

So they round up a crew of living techs – including a wry zombie wrangler (Bill Simmons) and some nubile actresses willing to do nude scenes – and rush into production. Admittedly, their previous zombie flicks weren’t exactly commercially or critically well received, but with real zombies in the cast, they figure they’ve got a surefire hit on their hands.

But, naturally, once shooting starts things quickly go awry as the slow, plodding, stupid zombies create havoc and the human filmmakers indulge in their various foibles and flaws that turn the production into a living nightmare. In fact, the most humorous thing about this is the way the filmmakers caricature themselves – with Francis laying it on thick as the temperamental, touchy-feely director and Masters mugging it up as the bitter, increasingly sarcastic producer. The wink-wink factor gets an extra nudge when renowned Troma figurehead Lloyd Kaufman shows up for a funny, self-effacing cameo.

And, of course, the lynchpin in all this riotous self-parody is an endless stream of insider jokes about the fictional (real) awfulness of “Zombie Night,” which ironically is no joke.

“Reel Zombie” is not rated and runs 89 minutes. It’s being released by Synapse Films.

- Dennis King