Despite the tantalising box art, ‘Paradise Z’ is absolutely not what you would expect it to be. In a style reminiscent of Euro exploitation/horror artists such as Jess Franco and Jean Rollin ‘Paradise Z’ certainly delivers on some of its promise, but at a heavy investment of time and patience.
‘Paradise Z’ centres around two young lesbian lovers who have carved out their own private slice of paradise amidst a zombie apocalypse. For reasons which are never fully explained the two are alone and appear content that way. They have managed to inhabit what appears to be a luxury spa or hotel complex and live carefree, despite the occasional hint at the fate which has befell the rest of the world. All is well and good until an altercation draws unwanted attention their way, initiating a fight for survival.
The film is pretty much a tale of two parts, the first, a very stylised and somewhat arthouse feeling drama about the two lovers living free. Its difficult to know exactly what to make about this part of the film as nothing really happens; just a mixture of recreational and moderate lesbian activities. There is plenty of nudity, and when they aren’t nude, the girls are dressed fairly sparingly, but its not shot in a smutty way; there’s still little point in it either way from the perspective of a plot.
There is ample use of a washed-out colour pallet and bright over exposed lighting, minimal dialogue accompanied by a light airy ambient soundtrack – considering the films back drop, it is all rather calming to be honest. There is definitely something comfortable and comforting about the whole setup, and whilst I would by lying if plot wise there was any point to the films first 45 minutes or so I think the film maybe trying to suggest that they aren’t too troubled by the events of the world around them because the prejudice against their sexuality meant they never belonged in the first place, or perhaps they are now liberated by the fact they can simply be themselves with no one around them to judge – or perhaps I’m just reaching?!
Either way, it’s well crafted, but ultimately not that engaging as not a lot happens. I mentioned the two prominent Euro horror veterans in my opening, and it is their films that ‘Paradise Z’ reminded me of, a lot more style than substance – and the sexualised content of course.
In the films final third however there is a change of pace, and this is where the film begins to fit more comfortably into genre labels. A key event sees the horde alerted, and from that point on the film plays out as a fast paced, tense, survival horror.
Whilst the change of pace is somewhat jarring when you consider the carefree slug’s pace of the first couple of acts, but very much welcome. The girls are literally on the run from what seems like an endless supply of loud, feral and highly agitated living dead. There’s some decent scenes to enjoy, some tense standoffs, some gore (although far from a gore-fest) and a good range of hand to hand combat and gun-play. Its all good stuff to, and in contrast to the rest of film, which had me drifting towards a lesbian induced slumber, the final half an hour gets the adrenaline pumping. Its not the best zombie related footage I’ve ever seen, but it comes off strong; again considering their isn’t an actual plot or objective to speak of, the sheer frequency and ferocity of the attacks just keep you engaged.
Overall ‘Paradise Z’ is one of those films that doesn’t quite fit anywhere, but it’s also difficult to write off as crap either. Its certainly well made from a technical perspective, the acting is ok, what little script there is did the job, and there’s some nice set pieces. But, there’s also no plot beyond the concept, or even point the film was trying to make as far as I could see. This, coupled with a very eventless first 50 minutes or so going to be a bit of a deal breaker for your average viewer. That said, enjoy those lumbering nudity packed Euro horrors from way back when? Then ‘Paradise Z’ might just take your fancy.