Situation time: The world has experienced a zombie problem. Things are more or less okay now, but you still have zombies running around. So, what do you do? Well, in the case of director Steve Barker’s The Rezort (also known as Generation Z, you pull a bit of Westworld, and part of Jurassic Park, and put ’em together. The film made it’s début at the BFI Southbank in 2015, and more recently received a spot at the 2016 UK FrightFest. So, do the inevitable problems of hunting zombies in a private reserve play out as expected, or do we get something more?
In the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse where society has begun to rebuild itself, several remaining zombies are kept on a luxury island retreat called The Rezort. Wealthy patrons of The Rezort can pay to take out their frustrations on the zombies via the provided firepower. One such visitor is Melanie (Jessica De Gouw), who with her boyfriend, Lewis (Martin McCann), is encouraged to visit The Rezort in order to conquer her feelings of self-doubt. However, Melanie and the rest of her group get more than they bargained for after a security breach on the island allows the zombies to bust out of their confines and begin to snack on the visitors.
With the plethora of zombie apocalypse films (both big budget and indie), it’s nice to see that a film has come along to take a different spin on things. Sure, it’s one of those “Why didn’t they think of this before?” films that ends up being a bit predictable, but it’s a relatively fresh idea compared to the usual films about surviving in the aftermath. In addition, writer Paul Gerstenberger has thrown in the idea of “zombie-life rights” in the form of an activist group called Living Too. I know, it’s another situation that screams of the scene from 28 Days Later that started the whole mess in that film, but here it does provoke some theoretical questions. They may be the walking dead, but do they really deserve to be hunted down and killed for sport? Scenes of the captive zombies being abused by the island guests do get the mind churning as well, sparking more questions. And taking a cue from George Romero, the film alludes to the real-life topic of the European migrant crisis and the treatment of refugees, as there’s a refugee camp on the island situated right next to The Rezort. The way that it’s incorporated is rather sinister once it comes up.
Also nice to see is how well-crafted the action sequences are, given the film’s budget. Barker constructs some nice moments of action, which also showcase some good effects for the zombies. They’re a bit rough, but for a reported $15 million budget, it’s still quite good. The Spanish island used as the film’s location is made the most of in attempts to look like an island resort, and is very beautiful. As for the acting, our primary protagonists are likeable, though not without fault. De Gouw turns in an acceptable but flat-feeling performance, while McCann’s jerk boyfriend and war veteran Lewis is also sometimes a little too devoid in the emotion department. As for the rest of the players, they’re all more or less stock characters. Veteran actor Dougray Scott is the more enjoyable of the lot, pulling off tough-man Archer with ease. Jassa Ahluwalia and Lawrence Walker play your typical “Call Of Duty” players trying to see how they fare with the real-life thing (with predictable results), and Elen Rhys is your clichéd activist type.
Apart from the mostly-weak characters, there’s the previously-mentioned predictability of the story. It’s telegraphed what’s going to happen, who’s going to die, and how matters are going to develop and progress. Ultimately, once the zombies are out of the pens, the film becomes just another film in the genre, with our survivors running away from the hordes. Worse, outside of the action, the film crawls and becomes more of an effort to sit through, thanks to the lacklustre characters.
It’s really a shame, since I wanted to like The Resort with all of its ingredients. It’s one of those films that you hope would break through and separate itself from the “me-too” zombie films that plague the genre at the moment, in spite of its derivative, though potentially fun, plot. While Barker and company do make the most of their budget, and the questions that do arise from the idea of a zombie safari are interesting (along with the attempt at social commentary), the one-note characters and the inability to fully capitalize on it’s own setup is frustrating. It’s entertaining, but it’s a fire-and-forget type of film.