I read somewhere that in the pornographic film industry, it is not uncommon for the DVD cover-art for a film to cost as much as the production of the film itself. This disparity in cover-to-film-quality was the first negative and misleading thing I thought of upon watching the 2007 horror film Rise of the Dead. It was not the last.
My biggest complaint with this low-budget, poorly-shot, weakly-acted film was its title. Lots of zombie films have titles that end with “…of the Dead.” Know what else they have? Zombies at all. I’ve got nothing against zombie movies like 28 Days Later, where the “zombies” aren’t brain-eating corpses (rather, they’re some sort of “infection” passed from person to person), but 28 Days Later also doesn’t purport to have rising corpses. Rise of the Dead does, and then fails to deliver.
Instead, the “zombies” in this film seem to be people who become possessed by a ghost and then run around trying to kill the protagonists. Seriously.
Also, if you’re going to make a horror film using the: create-likable-characters-and-then-put-them-in-danger recipe, you’ve got to make the likable characters likable. I didn’t care about the characters in this film at all. They were boring and wooden, and without any interesting quirks.
The gore (and there was gore) was bloody, certainly, but not really scary. The nudity (and there was nudity) felt porn-y and forced– such that I found myself feeling bad for the actresses who’d been asked to be naked for no good reason. The plot-twists, such as they were, weren’t clever or satisfying (and seemed to be built up way too much for the paltry payoff they delivered).
The final explanation for the zombies body-inhabiting-ghosts involved a curse bestowed by a Christian fundamentalist couple. However, it was so convolutedly framed that I wasn’t sure what point the filmmaker was trying to make with it. I wondered: is the film anti-Christian, with the message being that Christians are bad people who will put zombie ghost-curses on you? Or is it the other way round, and this is one of those horror films where the message is: “Christianity is right, and you’ll be attacked by some kind of monster if you don’t believe in Jesus.” It was impossible to tell. My personal suspicion is that the director himself did not know, and that, to him, these merely seemed like appropriate elements that “should” be in a horror film. He included them all without taking the time to craft a script where they would work together coherently.
In summary: This is a lousy “zombie film,” singularly uncontaminated by zombies.