Zombies – An Undead Road Movie
The Tarnoll Brothers’ indie ZomRomCom April Apocalypse wants to be the next zombie road movie, but it makes a u-turn into mediocrity.
In the story, Artie (Reece Thompson) is lovestruck by his next door neighbor and best friend, April (Rebekah Brandes). After years of pining for her, he finally gets up the courage to pursue her only to find out that she is moving away. Three years later Artie is still heartbroken, hiding away in his parents’ basement hosting a podcast that no one listens to. Fed up with his slacking and moping about, his father (Mark Ralston) gives him an ultimatum, go see a psychiatrist (George Lopez) or find a new place to live. Reluctantly, Artie acquiesces.
Prescribed a new type of antidepressant, Artie begins to feel less melancholy. Encouraged by his grandfather (William Morgan Sheppard) to seek out his long lost love, he leaves home and sets out on a road trip to find her. Artie doesn’t make it very far. He hits someone standing in the middle of the road, which causes him to crash his car and pass out for several days. When he awakens, he doesn’t quite grasp that a zombie uprising has occurred, until he makes it back home on foot and is attacked and bitten. However, Artie doesn’t turn into a zombie, and he doesn’t realize until later that its because of the Zybonol that he is taking. One of the side effects is an increase in the immune system.
Still intent on rescuing April, though it appears he has no address just a postcard, he sets out once again, only this time he runs out of gas. He continues his journey on foot and ends up rescuing a girl named Regan (Stephanie Hunt). Later, he is reunited with stoner Stevenson, an old high school acquaintance that he used to get high with, who decides to help find April.
Spoilers from here on out.
Zombie films are filled with characters being eaten or bitten, Regan and Stevenson are no exception. Artie feels empowered by having someone to protect and a friend he can rely on, but ultimately is unable to save either. After the death of Stevenson the film abruptly jumps time and Artie is standing in front of April’s house, arriving just in time to rescue her from her over run residence. How Artie managed to find the house is an unanswered question. He of course saves the girl of his dreams and they head off to a known place of sanctuary, with the knowledge and fear that he may turn into a zombie because he has run out of his purple medication.
Finding his parents and brother still alive at the survivor camp, he tells them of his travels and about the medication. However, the reunion is short-live, literally. The fortified camp is over run by zombies, eating everyone except April. As for Artie, as he does battle against the undead to save his love, he begins to zombify, and it is April who must put him down before he turns on her.
April Apocalypse is filled with some major acting talent and there is not one actor who fails to deliver, but talent alone can not save a film from a poor script. The problem with the screenplay is not the concept but the execution. If you are going to recycle old ideas, then you need to put fresh spins on them. Screenwriter Brent Tarnol, who plays stoner Stevenson, fails to deliver a script that makes you laugh or makes you feel good by the end.
The first issue I have is that you could tell when a character was about to meet their end. There always seemed to be a blatant foretelling of the event, like when Artie warns Regan’s father that it is dangerous for him to keep his zombie son chained to a tree, or when Artie and Stevenson are standing before a girl who is about to turn zombie and starts a conversation on whether they should kill her or not. The character deaths were predictable, when there should have been a surprise in their demises.
The second glaring issue lies within Artie’s road trip. For the majority of the film he never seems to get out of his own backyard so to speak. He meets up with Stevenson and then later finds Brady, the high school Lacrosse jock — still wearing his varsity jacket — that had once pummeled him at a party and who is now a zombie. It is clearly evident that time has passed; nearly a month. You know this by the worn postcard he carries and through his narration. The death of Brady (Randy Wayne) is nearly proceeded by Stevenson’s death, and immediately followed by Artie’s sudden appearance in front of April’s house. We are asked to believe that he miraculously found the residence when he previously didn’t know her address. This is a script hole that should not have been over looked.
For a light-hearted, romantic horror comedy, there should have been some satisfying, uplifting ending but the Tornal Brothers failed to deliver. A fortified survivor camp gets over run by a horde of zombies by accident, killing off his entire family and nearly everyone inside. This is accomplished by having a door guard hear a thump and opening it to investigate. Again here is another script error. Moments after Artie and April arrive at the fortified camp, there is clearly a shot of guard standing above the entry looking out the hay loft door, who is keeping watch. So what happened to him, did he go on dinner break?
In the end Artie turns into a zombie and April must kill him, nullify any hope that his medication could be a cure. Instead of the script taking the more traveled route, the Tornal Brothers chose a road less traveled by having Artie’s antidepressant be a mere suppressant to the virus than an antiviral. Though trying to inject some uniqueness into a rather uninspired script was what was sorely needed, it came too late and too poorly placed to rescue the film from mediocrity.
I wanted to like this film, it is not without charm, but its flawed script, chuckle-less humor and lack of a feel good ending made it sadly disappointing, and left me needing a few Zybonol to get over the disheartening, anti-climatic ending.
Directed by Jarret Tarnol
Screenplay by Brent Tarnol
Cast: Reece Thompson, Rebekah Brandes, Brent Tarnol, Mark Ralston, Marguerite MacIntyre, Stephanie Hunt, Todd Stashwick, William Morgan Sheppard and George Lopez
Run Time: 82 minutes
Release Date: Out now on Blu-ray & DVD in Germany. Japan, October 3 / Australia, October 15 and the USA, February 2015.