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February 07, 2014

Reel Zombies

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Mike Masters and David J. Francis - 2008
Synapse Films Region 0 DVD

A fake documentary about a fake documentary about the making of a zombie movie, Reel Zombies is never scary, and only occasionally funny. The best way to see this film is with the commentary track, because if nothing else, Reel Zombies does provide something of an education for wannabe filmmakers. And this means making any kind of movie, although in this case, the film in question is a no budget horror movie shots over several weekends.

There is a scene involving actors auditioning for a key role. What we see are several different ways of saying the same line, often with the emphasis off, or expressed awkwardly. Tromo head Lloyd Kaufman, playing himself, joins the fun in this scene, a wink to those viewers familiar with his public persona. There is also a bit of fun regarding the almost obligatory gratuitous nudity in these films.

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Masters, Francis and most of the rest of the onscreen performers portray versions of themselves. The setup is that following the two Zombie Night movies, the crew makes a third film. At the time this is taking place, there are real zombies. As can be imagined, no matter how much one thinks one has them under control, making a zombie movies with real zombies turns out to be a disastrous idea.

A little bit of research reminded me that Masters had also produced The Son of the Sunshine, a film with higher artistic aspirations that I saw as part of the Starz Denver Film Festival in 2011. Francis appeared as Jesus in Dracula 3000. Throughout this film, the two reveal how certain scenes were filmed as well as other biographical bits concerning the making of Reel Zombies. The film itself is a combination of script, improvisation and accident. While some of the scenes are clearly a parody of no budget filmmaking, such as those involving craft services, the food provided for the production crew, there are lessons to be had on how not to make a movie. Filmmaking, even in the best of circumstances, isn't easy, and Masters and Francis who what can be done when there is no money, but plenty of passion.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at February 7, 2014 07:22 AM