Monday, November 28, 2011

UK DVD Review: COWBOYS & ZOMBIES (2010)

COWBOYS AND ZOMBIES (2010)



LABEL: Left Films LTD
REGION CODE: Region 0 PAL
RATING: 18 Certificate
DURATION: 82 mins
AUDIO: Dolby Digital Stereo
VIDEO: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
DIRECTOR: Rene Perez
CAST: David A. Lockhart, Camille Montgomery, Rick Mora, Robert Amstler
TAGLINE: It's Clint Eastwood meets George Romero as undead, flesh-eating gun-slingers roam the Wild West.

The year is 1849 and Mortimer (David A. Lockhart, MINTY THE ASSASSIN) is a bounty hunter in the old west on the trail of a Native American named Brother Wolf (Rick Mora, TWILIGHT) who stands accused of raping a white virgin, as opposed to a virgin of non-Caucasian persuasion. Morty arrives in the town of Jameson and promptly  buys himself a would-be blonde bride by the name of Rhiannon (Camille Montgomery) from a shady entrepreneur selling "hostesses, not whores". He has no intention of marrying her but instead takes her to the highlands and stakes her to the ground in an effort to draw Brother Wolf down from the hills, you know, by the allure of a feisty white woman to rape, how could he possibly resist, natch. The portrayal of Brother Wolf is your stereotypically stoic, white woman raping native American, the only thing missing was perhaps for him to shed a lone tear at the site of someone littering in the town square. This may sound like an incredibly lame plan of capture the "villain" but it works (of course) and Morty escorts the white virgin-raper back to town.

At about the same time two local yokels mining for gold discover a meteorite embedded in the earth. The meteor emits an unearthly green glow, the two suppose there must be wealth of emeralds inside and schlep the hefty space rock back to town where a crowd of curious onlookers gather around for a look-see. When one of the miners takes a sledgehammer to the rock it ruptures and spews forth a cloud of green spores which infect everyone, turning them into ravenous, fast-moving zombies. The creatures head for the hills where they prove to be quite a nuisance to Morty, Brother Wolf and Rhiannon.

This zombie-western is not too shabby a premise for an indie horror film, it's an appealing genre mash-up in concept, but the execution lacks passion. Not helping the production is that the sets look like they were built yesterday, they're  super-flimsy, and they lacked that dusty, rustic aesthetic that sells westerns, there's just no atmosphere here. It's also hamstrung by some pretty amateur acting. Star Lockhart starts off strong as the silent but deadly gunslinger type but as soon as the dialogue spills forth from his lips it's game over, it's a terrible accent. That said, it's the only decent accent in the bunch. There's a lot of CGI blood in this film, nothing takes the piss outta a zombie flick like a shitty digital headshot. Note to the effects team, bullets don't spark when they strike a tree, they splinter, just saying. The film wants to be an action-packed zombie genre mash-up but the action sequences are poorly executed, it's very flat, case in point a protracted shootout at the top of the film. The nail in the coffin is a very flaccid final 3rd that gets bogged down in needless back story and exposition, it was too little too late by this point and I was quickly losing interest.

On the plus side the film has some decent cinematography, plus a few bits gratuitous nudity, otherwise known as the ace up the sleeve of indie horror, it didn't save the film bit it didn't hurt either. Not sure where this was shot but the rolling hills, open plains and lush forests provided some gorgeous scenery, a great backdrop. The non-period rock soundtrack features tunes ranging from Southwestern tinged rock to eerie mood pieces, great stuff but the film doesn't live up to either the score or the cinematography.

DVD: The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital stereo sound, no subtitles are offered. The image looks decent, it's a bit soft and lack fine detail, but well lit with some good lensing. The score and effects fare well in the mix but the dialogue is uneven and suffers a bit. Special features include the UK trailer and a stills gallery.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
- UK Trailer (0:45) 16:9
- Stills Gallery (0:37)

VERDICT: I've actually watched this movie once before under the alternate title of THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED as it's known here in the US and I must say that the second watch did little to improve my opinion of the film. COWBOYS AND ALIENS promises a zombie-western mash-up where Eastwood meets Romero but it fails to deliver. Not an outright terrible film, there's promise here, but the pieces just don't fall into place. While I would probably check out director Rene Perez's next film this one has no rewatch value for me (though I've seen it twice) so I say skip it and/or wait for it to air on Syfy or Chiller. 1.5 outta 5

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