I’m always waiting for that piece of pie that not only looks good, but also tastes good and sits well with me throughout the day. Steven C. Miller’s directorial debut, AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION, is that delicious slice of fresh, creamy goodness that I’ve had a sweet tooth for. If there was a zombie movie to compare this to, I’d say Danny Boyle’s 28 DAYS LATER – you excited yet?
Miller’s film follows three teens who find themselves in a town over run with zombies. Deciding to fight back, they go on a punch-you-in-the-throat, action-packed, non-stop ride through the city, woods and schools.
But that’s just the short run of the mill; in the early ‘70s, when everyone in America was worrying about what was going on in Vietnam, the United States Army was secretly developing a way to reanimate the dead. The hope was to have the dead fight instead of the living, but the experiments were shut down when the reanimated corpses were unable to control their hunger for human flesh. Thirty years later, the army has decided to reopen the project. Grover City, because of its remote location, would be the home of their main testing facilities. Without warning the experiments go horribly wrong in Grover City and the DEAD are now on the rampage, eating everyone in sight. With the town overtaken by zombies, a group of high school seniors take it upon themselves to fight back and find a cure for this deadly disease.
AUTOMATON is the first film in the planned trilogy, which comes to a halt when a blaring “…to be continued” blasts across the screen. The screenplay, which Miller also wrote, is still strong enough that it fulfills all of your zombie needs before the screeching halt. Obviously there’s only room for an hour and half (ish) of a movie, so knowing that this is just the beginning is like having a taste of the candy before you actually get it. It’s still sweet, still tastes great and only leaves you begging for more.
Miller’s screenplay also carries a colorful cast of characters who come to life with tremendous acting (from most) from a bunch of high-schoolers (shocking I know!). With the exception of those few miscast actors, and the moments of overacting with terrible delivery, the characters/acting are/is as solid as a rock for an indie film and would put many Hollywood thespians to shame.
Now, here’s where the film gets tricky, and where horror fans are going to be divided. The camera work is extremely fast-paced and could create some motion sickness. When a film is so extremely low budget (*ahem* only $30,000), it’s really tricky to give a feature that “high budget” look and feel without spending a dime – Miller’s actions with the camera add a level of excitement and urgency to a sub-genre that usually lacks both (which is why 28 DAYS LATER was such a success).
If you find yourself divided and can’t decide if the directing style suits you, this will seal the deal… the FX work is uncanny (look at the images we have on the site if you don’t believe me). What I love about the practical FX used in AUTOMATON is that it truly has the essence of those ‘80s films we hold so dear. If it weren’t for the clothing and ‘00s slang, I could be convinced this was a high-budget ‘80s film that somehow passed me by. Heads are blown off, legs ripped off, jaws torn off… everything just comes off (yes, even chicks’ clothes, you jokers).
Even with its low budget flaws, AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION is the Holy Grail of “true” independent horror films. After sifting through buckets and buckets of pure sh-t, it’s such a relief to finally get that slice of pie I’ve been longing for. Steven C. Miller will be a household name by the end of 2007, you just watch, AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION is only the beginning.
*You can check out Steven C. Miller’s film at this year’s Screamfest Horror Film Festival (more info here)