The original After Dark Horrorfest was honestly a hit or miss thing with me. That’s not to say that there weren’t some good films in there (such as Frontier(s) and The Gravedancers), but it was unfortunately forgettable. But now, after a five year hiatus, the festival returns, using the original subtitle of “8 Films To Die For” as its name. One of the new eight is Valeri Milev’s long-anticipated Re-Kill, which has been in the works for as long as the festival’s hiatus. As the saying goes, “good things come to those who wait,” but “good” can, and always will be, a subjective thing.
It’s been five years since the world’s population experienced a zombie outbreak, decimating 85% of the inhabitants. Many of the major cities are still uninhabitable. For the remaining few cities that are inhabitable, the Re-Animates, or Re-Ans as they’re called, are segregated into “zones” by humans and policed by R-Division soldiers. “R-Division: Frontline” is the number one TV show in the world. The show follows different R-Division units as they do their duties in order to keep America free of Re-Ans.
Taking obvious inspiration from COPS, Re-Kill does a nice job of aping the style of the famed TV show. In this particular “episode”, we’re mainly centred around R-Division 8 team. Specifically, members Winston (Bruce Payne) and Parker (Scott Adkins). Throughout the film, we’re treated to various commercials and PSAs that immediately hearken back to Paul Verhoeven’s work in Robocop and Starship Troopers, with heavy leanings towards the latter. These commercials do enhance the whole idea of watching an hour-long TV show (even if the film is actually 87 minutes), but they’re at times undermined by the film using them perhaps a bit too much. Granted, I’m sure that like in real life, advertising dollars are needed more than ever to keep the show going (what with the decline of television and all), but they break the flow of the film. Plus, some of the more comedic ads are just plain annoying.
Getting back to the “men and women of law enforcement”, our main protagonists, Winston and Parker, aren’t exactly the kinds of characters to root for against the Re-Ans. That’s unfortunate, since the acting is pretty good. That said, Winston comes across as a stereotypical religious fanatic, while Parker is a dickish war vet whose macho bravado gets old quite fast. What’s more unfortunate is that the characters who seem to be more interesting, such as Sarge (played by Roger R. Cross) or the rookie Tom Falkirk (Layke Anderson), aren’t given more focus. To their credit, Milev and writer Michael Hurst do spend time on post-death character heart-to-hearts, which do give the film its much-needed emotion. This emotion is again touched upon by Sarge’s bleak outlook that what they’re doing is ultimately futile. Needless to say, however, there’s not a heck of a lot of character development outside of the standard clich&eactue;s.
Re-Kill‘s biggest knock against it is the unfortunate fact that it finally comes out at a time when much of what it’s doing has already been done. True, the whole COPS-meets-zombies thing hasn’t totally been attempted before, but many of the film’s components —the ravaged cities, roving zombie hordes that appear without warning, fearless soldiers, the rapid-fire quick cuts, annoying shakycam use— bring nothing new to the table. They aren’t done badly (except the shakycam, which is ALWAYS done badly in ANY film, no matter what), but it’s a case of nothing standing out to make the film unique. Also, due to the constant use of the commercials and PSAs, the pacing of the film is often interrupted. And combined with the lack of character development, it makes for a film that doesn’t have much in the substance department. This wouldn’t be so bad if the action sequences were up to the task, but they’re again all things you’ve seen before. The film’s climax does turn it up a notch to make things more interesting, but by the end, it doesn’t make up for the overall film’s misses.
Obviously, sitting on the shelf for five years won’t do you any favours when attempting to capitalize on the zombie craze. And had Re-Kill come out in 2010, I would’ve come away more impressed. However, the unevenness of the pacing, the lack of endearing characters and the nauseating shakycam would’ve still made this film a hesitant recommendation. Milev and company have crafted a film that achieves the look and feel of COPS almost flawlessly. And truthfully, there are some action sequences that are entertaining, even if we’ve seen them before in other films. But even with all that style, the substance in Re-Kill is lacking.