It’s a horr-edy.
(2014, New Zealand)
It’s a zombie film… but at its heart it’s a love story,” says nebbish novice runner Wesley (Harley Neville), trying to pitch a script to director SMP (Andrew Laing). “It also has a lot of comedic moments. It’s a horr-edy. You’re laughing one minute, you’re jumping out of your seat the next.”
“Horr-edy”, SMP replies from the long drop (outhouse), “is not a word — and mash-ups never work.”
Well SMP, you’re wrong!
Fresh out of film school, Wesley Pennington’s first day as a runner on location for Tonight They Come, literally starts off on the wrong foot, as he steps from his vehicle and into a puddle of muck. It’s all down hill from there as he is given every shit job on set, including being ordered by the director to fill in for a missing stand in.
Butt naked, wearing nothing but a sock on his privates, with Susan the craft services manager atop of him — who has also been order to fill in — he’s asked to re-enact part of a love scene. “For the frame,” the cinematographer explains. Wesley is more than happy to oblige, since he has been smitten with Susan just moments after his arrival. But our over eager dork gets, “a raging hard-on,” as Susan announces to everyone on set. “It’s not raging,” Wesley attempts to defend his aroused state, declaring, “it’s not angry at anyone. If anything it’s happy. It’s a happy little… it’s not even fully hard. It’s just a semi, it’ll go away.”
Thoroughly humiliated in front of most of the crew, Wesley is ready to quit, but Tane the location manager has a heart-to-heart with him and encourages him to stay. Then sends him off to clean up sheep shit. Out in the woods he finds some dismembered appendages. Thinking they’re forgotten props, he picks them up, and then realizes they are real limbs when he discovers a dismembered crew member. “Holy shit, real zombies!” he exclaims, and then dashes off to warn everyone.
But our nerdy anti-hero arrives too late, and amidst the chaos and destruction all Wesley can think about is saving the woman who has shunned him. And he does, utilizing a kitchen appliance in an unique and comedic scene that puts a new spin on the use of a hand held mixer. Using his nerdy zombie film knowledge, he and Susan long with a few others make their escape and what unfolds makes for a funny, sometimes laugh out loud film as Pigden ramps up the gore and jokes, paying homage to some of the great zombie directors that came before him.
Writer/director Guy Pigden has filled I Survived a Zombie Holocaust with a cast of cliched characters. In it we have a self-important director, a demoralized AD (Simon Ward), an egotistical leading man (Mike Edward) who sleeps with all his female co-stars in an attempt to hide his homosexuality, a lead actress (Reannin Johannink) who believes her talent got her the job when in fact it was her “assets”, a rugby-obsessed location manager (Ben Baker) who repeatedly tells anyone who will listen to tales of his glory days, a ‘method’ actor (Patrick Davies) who refuses to come out of character, an idealistic actor who’s a failed scriptwriter (Harry Love), an American props master (Mark Neilson) whose motto is kill them all and let God sort them out and Susan, the craft services manager, who can’t cook and longs to get that big break in film.
However, what seems to be Pigden’s lack of imagination is quiet the opposite. Those stereotyped roles that are often found in so many bad zombie flicks are crafted with smart humor and infused with enough satirical commentary on the problems of low-budget horror production that he not only sends up those schlocky B-Grade movies, but also makes light of his own production problems and budget constraints; having been produced on a grant of $250,000 from the New Zealand Film Commission. That’s $195,000 US.
The most endearing of these “cliched” characters is Wesley. Sure we’ve seen the bumbling, eye glass, v-neck sweater wearing underdog many times before, but never played so aptly as by Harley Neville. Neville’s genuine comedic talent and often subtle but hilarious delivery of Guy Pigden’s script immediately endears Wesley to you, and makes you root for him to be triumphant and save the day. The rest of the characters range from the sublime to the all out wacky and even the unlikeable, but all have their place and are well-written.
I Survived a Zombie Holocaust will make you laugh, it will make your cry, it’ll change your life. Okay, not really. But damn it’s funny. It’s got zombies — loads of them — blood, gore, fantastic effects, tits, flesh-eating. toilet humor and homages to Fulci, Raimi, Romero, Jackson and Boyle; some outright obvious and some a little more subtle. But most of all I Survived a Zombie Holocaust has heart, which shines through because of Guy Pigden’s love of the genre.
I Survived a Zombie Holocaust
Directed by Guy Pigden
Screenplay by Guy Pigden
Cast: Harley Neville, Jocelyn Christian, Ben Baker, Reanin Johannink, Mike Edward, Andrew Laing, Simon Ward, Mark Neilson and Patrick Davies
Run Time: 104 minutes
Release Date: Unknown
No distribution deal as been signed for North America, but Guy Pigden assures me he’s working on it. In the mean time, you can check out their Facebook page and watch the official trailer below. For more insight into writer/director Guy Pigden, read my In The Crosshairs interview.