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It was clear early on that Zombie Town must be taken with a grain of salt. This was obviously a low budget film and I figured that it would be entertaining to see what writer/director Damon LeMay could do given his constrictions. What we are left with is an independent gore-flick with influences ranging from Slither to Shaun of the Dead…to every other zombie flick in history.
LeMay’s stab at the zombie genre takes place in the small (and of course, completely secluded) town of Otis, Vermont. As in many zombie films, there is no initial explanation as to the zombification right off. Our first encounter with the undead is an infected hillbilly who attacks his hunting buddies in their wooded shanty to initiate the town’s larger infection.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the opening credits—which one can only assume are so long because they needed to add to the film’s running time. Bad death metal plays as we see distorted upshots of zombies filtered with some insane gold-colored light. Maybe the sequence was designed to be cool and scary, but all it did was remind me of that sacred advice to never do LSD if you’re around people that you’re not comfortable with.
Soon after, we are introduced to Jake and Denton, two brothers who run a gas/service station that they’ve inherited from their father. It’s the classic dichotomy wherein older brother Denton (Phil Burke) is the ‘responsible one’ and Jake (Adam Hose, who looks like a poor man’s Mark Hamill) is the bright-eyed, whimsical kid who could care less he doesn’t even know how to change an oil filter, despite the fact that he’s somehow head mechanic.
A simple phone call to tow an abandoned pickup truck (belonging to the hunters from the opening sequence) sets in motion the familiar plotline for this film. Upon checking the hunting shanty for the truck’s owner, the brothers are attacked and Denton is bitten by his assailant. We all know what that means for his future.
I could go into detail about the intricacies that follow, but it’s really inconsequential to the big picture of Zombie Town. The twist that is presented with Denton’s infection is that we learn that it’s caused by these odd little parasites that look suspiciously like a hybrid between the creatures in Slither and Ceti eels from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Jake’s ex-girlfriend Alex (Brynn Lucas) is conveniently a biologist who informs us that they enter a host, multiply and spread to others through bites. No more detail as to the origin of the creatures is really given; we must simply accept the fact that they’re there.
From that point on, we are presented with the formulaic storyline that zombie fanatics will find familiar and comforting.
There’s lots of guns. Lots of blood and gore. Lots of one-liners that are so audacious that an established actor would probably refuse to deliver them. Heck, there’s even some gratuitous nudity with a high school girl making out with her boyfriend at a party. A nice chainsaw de-limbing episode is even present to spice things up a bit. All of the elements that are necessary for your standard horror flick are at hand in Zombie Town…just without the big studio dollars behind them.
Rounding out the cast of our heroes is Randy (Dennis Lemoine)—the towns slow plow driver who looks strangely like a grown up version of Hyde in That 70’s Show. Lemoine adds a much needed comedic presence to the film, drawing from the tongue-in-cheek humor of films like Shaun of the Dead. Lemoine will not be nominated for any Academy Awards for his performance, but his self-assured attitude and outlandish lines (“Oh my Lord! It’s like a goddamn grandma massacre in here!” upon stumbling into a bingo parlor post-zombie attack) make him hand-down the most entertaining character in the film.
[SPOILER ALERT] Not only is it fortunate that Alex is a biologist, but also that Randy drives a snowplow and has access to the town’s salt supply because, guess what? The parasites shrivel up and die like slugs when they come in contact with sodium! Our heroes then concoct a plan to gather all of the infected at the base of the town’s water tanks (which they’ve added the rock salt to) and then blow the hatch with some dynamite that Randy “luckily” stumbled upon. Of course, there are a few twists and turns so that the plan doesn’t work out exactly as planned, but at the end of it all, the infected are flushed with salt-water and a gore-fest of alka-seltzerish foamy blood, amputated limbs and mushy zombies showcase Mike Turner’s special effects.
There’s a lot of answered questions in Zombie Town, but who really cares?! What’s the difference if the origin of the little slugs isn’t answered? It doesn’t matter that only one zombie (a main character I won’t mention) somehow manages to help out the heroes of his own free will. Who cares that Jake’s mechanical skills under a hood suddenly kick in at zero hour? This is not a film that is meant to be pondered over and scrutinized, but rather taken for what it is. This is a low budget horror film. Nothing more, nothing less.
To say that Zombie Town is a masterpiece of independent horror would simply not be true. To say that this film was most likely made by a bunch of guys who have a love and appreciation for zombie films—even if they didn’t have the budget to make the best one themselves—would be closer to the truth.
In that, Zombie Town will most likely appeal to the very same: hardcore zombie fanatics. While all that a casual horror fan will take from this film is the lack of budget and a feeling that they were cheated out of CGI effects and big explosions, anyone who can quote lines from Feeding the Masses will view it in a different way.
Zombie fanatics will see this as one of their own having made a film the best that they could.
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