UNDEAD. 2003
Directors: Michael & Peter Spierig

HIDE & CREEP. 2004
Directors: Chuck Hartsell & Chance Shirley

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Undead Meteors strike Earth, engendering violent zombyism in whoever contacts the meteorites, including getting a meteor zooming right through the whole body leaving a big round hole you can see through.

Set in a somewhat isolated Australian village, Undead (2003) is played three-fourths for laughs, but rhe remaining fourth is frightening.

The FX are funny & weird, like the half-zombie with spine sticking straight up staggers about, simultaneously gross & giggle-worthy.

It's surprisingly witty at times. Rene (Felicity Mason) encounters a survivalist not seriously equipped to survive. Marion (Mungo McKay) vs the Zombie fish is fairly amazing.

It's as scary at times as Dawn of the Dead (1978's, not the remake), funnier than the effective Shaun of the Dead (2004), & even throws in a good dose of crazily satirized Sergio Leone gunplay for good measure.

Aliens are associated with the phenomenon, adding a note of originality to a subgenre notorious for its lack of originality.

The aliens, cowled light beings, have created a gargantuan spiked wall that permits no escape, though the loony police officer decides to climb the spikes. The aliens have seemingly generated toxic rain storms, so that rain becomes to our band of survivors like sunlight on vampires.

UndeadWhen zombies begin reverting to normal, it's only prefatory to defying gravity & being taken up to a place above the clouds, drifting like icons or angels, providing the film with a couple of its more remarkable & totally original series of events.

There's a very nice "surprise" meaning to it all, as there's actually a story unfolding, & a good one, despite a hoary twist in the tail leaving open the possibility of a sequel.

The Spierig brothers funded this film out of their own pockets after frustrations in trying to get backing or grants. Good on them. I hope they thrive.

Although the Spierigs had an impressive resume from professionally filmed commercials to award-winning short films at film festivals, they were nevertheless instantly shot down for all attempts to get grants, from film-promoting & -funding bodies that look down their noses at horror.

So the brothers mortgaged their lives & set forth knowing full well that failure would've meant bankruptcy. This is no failure. It's a hell of a lot better than zombie movies deserve to be, & a lot more original than its generic title. The Spirigs have given horror fans a treasure instead of the usual stinker first-time feature filmmakers resorting to zombies usually provide.

More in keeping with first-time zombie directors' foolilshness is Hide & Creep (2004), yet another comedy take.

Like the Aussie brothers who risked everything they owned to make Undead, two Alabamians footed the entire bill for this one. Alas, they couldn't raise much by selling a hog & mortgaging a trailer house, hence dashed this one off for $26,000. If they could've made it work for that tiny amount, it might've seemed heroic rather than inadequate.

Hide & CreepNow I have to admit I did laugh a couple of times. But in between the few & far between successful gags, I felt like I was watching a compendium of all the "jokes" a couple guys came up with between the ages of 11 & 14, & they just never let go of those juvenile ideas.

The main joke is it's a town of hillbilly rednecks who're set upon by zombies. And if it is offensive to make this assumption that the American south is populated exclusively by uneducated hillbilly rednecks, at least it's authentic rednecks making that assumption. Perhaps worse, however, is the assumpton that there are no black people in the south.

There's no internal logic or cohesion to the "story." Nobody seems to know who the first zombies to show up even were. it might be a rural town with no one passing through, but if a shitload of people turn into zombies, though won't be people anyone knew.

In a typical scene, it turns out that lots of zombies were in the church, though the two living people who were in the scene neither saw nor smelled any zombies until it was time for them to show themselves. In other scenes, a big to-do is made of how bad the zombies smell.

There are a couple other scenes where zombies just show up without having to come from anywhere, & if that was supposed to be a joke, it didn't work. Or if they were interdimensional zombies the script failed to mention it. The film just aggressively wants the viewer to know it was made by amateurs who haven't a clue how to tell a story with visual conviction. "The joke is there's no joke" is a very hard joke to tell.

When the "ideas" have gotten worn out they toss in a 1950s sci-fi ingredient of off-screen aliens, perhaps it was done for love of the Drive-in Age. But unlike the Australian film's inclusion of space-aliens in a zombies movie, this one takes the mix nowhere interesting.

And unlike good zombie comedies including Undead & Shaun of the Dead, there's no desire here to do something either interesting or good with scary FX. The zombie make-up is rather like what third graders would do for Halloween, & that apparently is supposed to be one of the jokes, though really it's the budget & just saying it's a joke fails to negate the facts.

Hide & CreepThe acting isn't all bad. The head of the hillbilly gun club (Kyle Holman) looks & talks like Billy Bob Thornton. He's by far the best performer here & responsible for the lion's share of the few good laughs.

He really should be given a gig playing Billy Bob's inbred brother in some offensive film about West Virginians or Alabamians. Holman almost saves the film from its lackluster writing, but alas has to share too much of the screen time & the film gets stuck in its own foolishness whenever Kyle "Billy Bob" Holman's not there.

On his first encounter with zombies he butches it up & makes some threats before realizing he forgot to bring his guns. Eventually he does get armed to the teeth & plays the hero. Plus his equally redneck daughter scores the funniest moment in the whole film.

The fellow who runs the DVD rental shop (Chuck Hartsell imitating Kevin Smith, alas), though not much of an actor, conveys such knowledge of cheezy horror that he must be taken as the mouthpiece for the directors. And such self-referentiality for horror fans is something I rather liked, which is not to say it's original or clever or funny, as it's too old hat.

I could tell a lot of heart went into making this bad movie, probably with the intent of creating something "so bad it's good" because really doing it well was never in the cards.

Unfortunately they lacked the talent to make a good-bad movie on purpose, & seemed not to realize that truly wonderful crap films are accidental gems made by naifs who really didn't know they were totally untalented -- the Ed Wood Syndrome of cluelessly striving for greatness. These folks have just enough comprehension of the process to be unable to create a natural gem of foolishness, but not nearly talented enough to make a worthwhile film.

Had they been capable of authentically clever writing Hide & Creep might've overcome its lack of actual zombie FX, & made it a good joke that everything's ridiculous. The pisspoor writing sabotages everything else.

Certainly there are worse zombie movies out there -- by far. The ones that are just endless gobbling-bloody-meat-products with slowly shambling zombies, without any sense of humor, can be so truly stinkeroo as to render Hide & Creep sweet-smelling by comparison.

Hide & Creep is a peg above the worst of the worst, thanks to its sense of humor, however adolescent. For anyone who happens to share the eleven-year-old-boy notion of what's cool & funny, then, well, maybe such a sod would love the hell out of this one. For anyone else it has absolutely nothing else going for it.

Want more zombies?
Here's the best zombie film of them all:
Cemetery Man (1994)

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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