Movie News & Reviews

'Undead or Alive' living proof zombie movies are played out

Proof that zombie movies, grand as they are, are probably played out:when I do these theme months, I don't even have to try to find azombie movie that fits the bill. I could probably do "Giant SpaceCrocodiles Who Conquer Earth for the Sole Purpose of Making Us AllPinochle-Slaves" Month, spend three seconds on the Netflix website,and have a theme-appropriate title in my mailbox the next day.

Western Month, is it? No problem. All I have to do is stroll acrossthe street and rent 2007's Undead or Alive, the Chris Kattanvehicle America's been crying out for.

After a fight over a whore leaves lovestruck cowboy Kattan and soldierJames Denton in jail next to a zombie, they're not inclined to stickaround. They're pursued almost immediately by crooked sheriff MattBesser and his posse, who spread the zombie curse across thecountryside.

I will say this for Undead or Alive: the cause of its zombieplague (Native American curse) is fairly original. I guess you have toget creative when your movie's set in the days before viral researchand barrels of toxic ooze. Writer/director Glasgow Phillips takes asimilarly free attitude toward the rules of his world. Other than thatnight I ended up having to take my sleepwalking roommate to theemergency room, I don't remember the last time a headshot didn't killa zombie.

Other than that, it just makes too many tradeoffs. CG gore instead ofpractical effects. (CG: great for dinosaurs, not great for entrywounds.) A woman who's a 9 but can't act instead of a 7 who can. (Iassure you, this is a crime.) A completely unnecessary"meanwhile, back in town" sideplot that gives us a few more zombies atthe cost of the main story.

The first two problems may be byproducts of a low budget, but thethird is inexcusable. Kattan delivers his finest performance, meaningthe first time I didn't want to punch him in the face and run away,but with their screen time shared with that irrelevant sideplot, themain characters don't have time to do much besides argue aboutanachronistic scholarship and trade generic '00s-style quips.

It picks up once the massive blunderbuss gets involved, but that'spretty much a given. Even then, it's moderately fun, no more. When thebest you can say about a zombie movie is "Well, the shoveldecapitation was cool. Oh, and Brian Posehn," it's time to watchDawn of the Dead for the 243rd time instead.

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