Zombie Genocide
+ Wages of Sin

Dir: Andrew Harrison, Darryl Sloan, Khris Carville
Star: Andrew Harrison, Darryl Sloan, Jason Morrison, Paul Barton

The "bunch of mates with a VCR" school of film-making is, to borrow from Forrest Gump, like a box of chocolates. You may get something deliciously gooey like Bad Karma, or find yourself biting into an expired hard centre like the self-descriptive Violent Shit. I am pleased, and somewhat relieved, to report that these two films are more orange cream than cashew surprise, and you don't even need to consume that much beer to get through them...

Midnight Pictures' first film, Zombie Genocide, dates back to 1993, and is a remarkably ambitious 65 minutes in length. Four friends return from a camping trip to find their town deserted...save, of course, for flesh eating zombies. You can pretty much fill in the next hour yourself: it alternates between gore of varying competence, and acting which will not worry Tom Hanks come Oscar time, but these are both par for the course and of no real concern. However, there are some nice twists which keep one's interest, such as spotting the in-jokes, and the nicely downbeat mindset also seems to take much from the work of George Romero. The town is fabulously deserted, and one can only applaud the film-makers for the large number of *very* early summer mornings they must have used -- indeed, the zombie-infested housing estate is a neat idea on its own terms. The camerawork is kept simple, though the audio track borders on the near-inaudible at times, even if you don't really need to hear anything to work out the story.

As with all such works, a certain mind-set is required to get the most from it. Pay no attention to the fact that the undead are almost all blokes in their 20's! Ignore the mysterious parka'd zombie, no doubt another member of the cast doubling up! Wonder at the wisdom of staging dawn shootouts in N.Ireland, circa 1993! Spend at least one scene trying to read the titles on the collection of video tapes lurking in the background! In a commercial product, all these would likely be unacceptable, but with fan-flicks, they become part of the fun. I think my favourite is the way the zombies politely tap on doors rather than smashing their way through: hell, when shooting in your own home, you want to avoid collateral property damage at all costs...

So this is like a party to which you must bring your own booze, but nonetheless turns out to be good fun: I've been far less entertained by far more allegedly "professional" productions. Seems to have burned out the film-makers a bit though, as five years passed between that and their next production, Wages of Sin, which came out last year. The improvement in technique is palpable - it's even letterboxed - though it runs a "mere" twenty minutes. In it, an out-of-control hitman finds himself in trouble, both from his employers, and the ghosts of his victim. It's really rather slight, but has some effective moments and you're left hoping it's not another five years before they produce their next film.

It's one thing to watch films, quite another to get up off your arse and *make* one, especially given obviously limited resources. While the viewer needs to put effort in too, it's clear that enthusiasm and effort can go a long way to help overcome such problems, and if love of the genre is any indicator, this particular "bunch of mates" deserve respect.


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