Director Harrison Smith, of Camp Dread, takes on the zombie apocalyptic hoarder in Zombie Killers, which involves a small group of survivors that have barricaded themselves in a community with a bizarre hierarchy and defended by a makeshift warriors and a militia trained leader, the devilish talented Billy Zane. Smith continues to adhere to the standard rule implemented from the legendary John Carpenter formula, continue to work with the same actors and especially the crew, for one knows what to expect with the tried and tested talent. This works especially well for limited budgeted films when costs heavily measure themselves against returns and one does not need surprises to appear especially post-production when silly issues may seal the fate of the director and sometimes more importantly the film itself.
The story opens with bland monologue spoken from Doc (Brian Anthony Wilson, who some may recall from director Robert A. Masciantonio’s Cold Hearts (1999)) as he explains the world of today, the zombie outbreak, along with the disintegration of society and reflects on his community. This rural town of Elwood serves as the backdrop for the strange connection of the zombie uprising caused by the environmental problems of natural gas fracking. Meanwhile the town has a small team of soldiers consisting of most young adults and teenagers lead by a military trained individual Seiler (Zane), who at times acts more as a father figure than a general. Inside the town exist the worries, tight-lipped mentality concern the wrong term has one banished to the outside and rot among the dead, a paranoia cascades from Doc and the religious zealot, played wonderfully by Felissa Rose, who needs no introduction in the world of horror. Now for an interesting twist and leaves many confused but in the end can be justified in this new world, Seiler, trains the troops with paintball warfare, for headshots, keeping ones nerves in check and no waste of ammo, a precious commodity in the new world. Later revealed by Smith that a producer wanted to incorporate the theme of paintball guns into the movie, and retrospect; many paintball parks have a zombie theme warzone now present. The movie tends to focus more on the human side than the zombies, worrying about the characters depth and their behaviors, it seems misplaced especially when the core of the audience desires the lust of the zombies gut munching activities. Zane is not the only major player in the movie, Dee Wallace of The Howling (1981) fame plays a cancer stricken mother Sharon, of Ian (Michael Kean, who stars in Paranormal Halloween), provides wonderful depth of his internal struggles for his mother care and worrisome of the rest community standoffish position them. In the battles, with the dead who doesn’t come quickly, but filter with one-line banter as if everyone divvy the famous lines of action movies to try them out in the field, it comes off very forced and stilted. The horror audience knows something is amiss when the zombie attacks appear long range, and with wide sprawling shots of the horde of zombies. Only few close moments exist, to show black ooze dripping from the eyes, and animal zombies in the form of deer and flying fish.
Since the creation of The Walking Dead, gaining massive popularity leading to AMC creating more zombie series and the then breeding imitations, the saturation of still not settle, and may be not for while, the fans act as a hungry horde of zombies. It is difficult to tell the same zombie apocalyptic tale, in different manner, and using an environmental angle such as fracking allows for some promise. However, the focus needs a switch to survival of the swarming undead, whereas the current status the human race killed off by each other or the dead, truly are shells of humanity, and the hence focus on themselves in petty issues. The cinematography and effects seem to find themselves on different pages, and never rejoin properly, and except of wonderful traveling aerial shot involving Zane riding to the horde as a kamikaze pilot.
Zombie Killers tries to achieve far too much, the characters backstory nicely summed up, but the lack of mistrust, never equally explain the slickness of the story becomes muddled in the professing of the suggested causes. A medical person, like Dr. Frankenstein from Day of the Dead (1985) used to show the piecing fracking together with zombies, however it shows as disjointed almost as if one tried to push a climate change message inside of a zombie flick. George A. Romero, Godfather of the Dead, knows how to convey the social dynamic messages in his movie with the right persuasion or suggestion, not a thrust in your face approach, but least original in assessing blame for the disease outbreak.