You’ve got to hand it to these Asylum flicks, as despite the (often warranted) criticism, they’re some of the most honest productions out there. When one of their titles promises a mutant shark, ridiculous weather phenomena or maybe even both, you can bet your ass that that’s exactly what you’re going to get. Glenn Miller’s Zoombies is no exception to this rule, as the movie does its damnedest to deliver on its amusing premise.
Zoombie stars Kim Nielsen as Dr. Ellen Rogers, head of the Eden Wildlife Zoo, as she prepares for opening day by welcoming a group of young interns into the park. Unfortunately, a monkey infected with some unknown pathogen attacks a group of veterinarians and soon begins to spread a mysterious illness to other creatures, turning them into undead killing machines. Once the enraged animals begin to tear down the park, eating anyone in their way, the zoo staff must band together in order to survive the outbreak.
As the tagline proudly states, Zoombies is basically “Jurassic World of the dead”, with a few elements from Hitchcock’s The Birds thrown in for good measure (although, when things go wrong, it does sometimes feel more like Birdemic). Judging it purely based off this premise, the movie is a success, gleefully reveling in its precarious budget and having fun as CGI zombies wreak havoc across the zoo. However, that’s not quite enough to make this a good movie.
We are given a few relatable characters to root for, but they don’t have that much to do once the outbreak begins (other than feed the undead animals, of course). The script doesn’t develop anyone beyond a few quirks and limited backstories, and a few instances of stilted acting don’t help either, though everyone is at least likable.
The story here also lacks most of the depth present in its influences, as it’s kind of hard to interpret any moral argument behind this violent animal rebellion when Eden Zoo doesn’t appear to be doing anything wrong to these creatures. Hell, it’s actually stated several times that the place is intended to be a safe haven for endangered species, which makes the outbreak more of an arbitrary tragedy than punishment for mankind’s attempts at playing god.
That being said, Zoombies doesn’t necessarily set out to make any artistic statements, so it’s not fair to judge it based on expectations born from other similar films. The goal here seems to be to simply have fun with a silly premise, and that’s exactly what Miller does. It’s hard not to be entertained by man-eating giraffes and surprise Koala attacks. Even if you’re not legitimately thrilled by these scenes, you’ll at least smile at how blatantly absurd they are.
The wildly fluctuating quality of these effects does end up hurting some of these sequences, as the CGI can go from decent to last-generation video game graphics in the blink of an eye. There are a few practical effects here and there (mostly involving a Cross River Gorilla named Kifo), but these aren’t much better, as they don’t mesh very well with the digital work. These faults are obviously due to the extremely limited budget, but they still detract from the overall experience.
In the end, despite (or maybe because of) its schlocky, low-budget origins, Zoombies is a consistently entertaining ride, even if this isn’t always intentional. It’s not necessarily a good movie, but it’s worth a watch if you’re up for some mindless fun and don’t mind the technical shortcomings.
Zoombies will be playing in select Cinemark theaters on October 19th as a part of Thursday Nights at The Asylum!