There are so many zombie films nowadays that it really would be a surprise if someone really did bring something new to the genre so there wasn’t much hope that this film would stand out from the crowd. Still it has Danny Trejo and Jordi from Star Trek so that‘s something the others don’t have. Unfortunately when you have story that doesn’t really have much to say then there’s a limit to how much decent actors can do to bring a mediocre story to life.
This film doesn’t start at the outbreak but some time later when a group of survivors from San Francisco have made it Alcatraz. The film opens with another group of survivors heading in a car to the shore to go to the island but the driver goes mental on this narrow twisty road and tries to drive down it at full speed resulting in the car crashing killing the driver. One of the passengers, a heavily pregnant woman, gets out and away but the others gets attacked by zombies and they’re dead. The film has a very abrupt start, right in the middle of a zombie attack and that is a bit unsettling.
On Alcatraz there is a mixed group of people but at least it contains scientists who are trying to find out what is causing the zombies and find a way to cure it or at least stop it spreading. Dr Lynn Snyder (Mariel Hemingway) is examining a video sent by Dr Arnold (French Stewart), a scientist working in the city on a vaccine with chimpanzees and he has very positive results. Dr Dan Halpern (LeVar Burton) is there with his daughter Julie (Kerisse Hutchinson) and he is examining the zombie tissue. Halpern has discovered that there is weird black viral goo that is animating the dead flesh and keeping it from decaying. Other survivors on the island are Marshal (Ethan Suplee) who is ex-air force Captain Caspian (Danny Trejo), Kyle (Chad Lindberg), Ashley (Heather Hemmens) and a brother and sister called Jud (Peter Ngo) and Jun (Lilan Bowden). There are others but this is a zombie film so try to guess why I’m not bothering finding out their names
Lynn tells Marshall and Caspian that she needs to go to the city to contact Dr Arnold and see how he’s getting on with his work on a vaccine. Caspian is having none of it since it would leave them stranded on the island with no way off because they just have one raft and as far as he’s concerned it would be a suicide mission. The whole issue is forced when zombies reach the island by floating on the current and they attack the survivors. They decide that they are all going to a rescue centre on the mainland. The raft isn’t big enough to carry everyone. Julie got bitten in the attack so Dr Halpern wants to stay behind in the hope that he finds a cure. It’s a slim hope but then those leaving have about the same chance of survival. They leave him with a gun and a grenade for emergencies.
Like most zombie films this story follows the characters as they make their way to various targets while they get attacked by zombies. In this film you don’t have shambling animated corpses. The zombies are fast, strong and have wall-crawling abilities. I have read people say this makes them scarier but I have always liked the traditional shambling corpses whose very appearance makes your gorge rise.
This film is pretty bland and not very memorable. It reminded me of a poor episode of The Walking Dead TV series and this feeling is reinforced by the abrupt start and even more abrupt ending that make this feel like part of a bigger story. When the characters talk about things that happened before the present events they sound more interesting than the ones we actually get to see. The most interesting part of the film is the subplot of the scientists working on a cure but there wasn’t enough of that and before we see where it could have gone the film finishes.
For a zombie film I can’t really remember too much gore but I’m sure it was there. There’s constant down beat tone to the film and the script really puts the characters through some seriously bad times emotionally so that almost all hope and reason for continued existence is gone by the end. I‘m disappointed that they didn’t make better use of an interesting cast and I won’t remember this in a week.