The Neon Dead, the zombie title which embraces goofy low-fi horror effects and black lights in equal abundance!
If the title and the equally unsubtle box art doesn’t give you an indication as to what this film is like, then let me elaborate. The plot revolves around three, very likable characters and the invasion of a zombie horde orchestrated by the evil overlord Z’athax. Although as pointed out by a character in the film, “They’re not zombies! They’re Sons of Z’athax!”, but zombies are the closest reference those of us who were lucky enough to survive the invasion has until the sequel comes around. In this case, rather than being animated by hooky hoodoo, these guys have been animated by 60s psychedelic it seems!
Incidentally the plot does give some link between the invasion and a black magic cult, but I’m not sure I fully grasped the full back story behind the invasion.
The plot is fine, and, as the horror is pegged as a comedy the tongue in cheek basis for the film does the job and the pace moves along well. The film is obviously shot on a budget, however, director Torey Haas plays his strengths where he can and develops the cast into characters which elevate the film out of the realms of just plane dodgy. The characters have good chemistry, the female love interest Allison is more marriage material rather than simple eye candy, and whilst her male counterpart is cocky, even he has a side to him which sees him need Allison in times of peril. The result, characters which are easy to watch and despite the silly plot and often genre bending set pieces (period swashbuckling and stop motion cosmic demons) they give the film some well needed grounding.
As for the set pieces, well the regular zombies look pretty cool, very reminiscent of Romero’s originals, and with the black light and colour grading affects you cannot help think that King and Romero’s classic ‘Creepshow’ may have had some influence on the films art design. Where there is violence in this film, its fairly tame. There is a bit of blood splatter, and any limb removal looks as prosthetic as can be – at least the temptation for shitty CGI was resisted. The same is true for the overlord Z’athax, the stop motion and superimposed character looks as dodgy as it sounds, but again, it fits in with the whole old school low-fi vibe the neon dead has got going for it.
Finally, the ‘neon’ element, which is the films obvious play at being slightly different, is pretty cool but sadly never gets beyond the gimmick of having zombies with glowing neon eyes and teeth – still you can’t knock them for trying. As cool as it was from a visual stand point, I cannot help but wish that we had seen some neon manga style blood sprays from horde.
Overall however, this film definitely sits in the ‘Its fun – give it a try’ category. It isn’t without its faults, but ultimately it picks you up with some likable characters, and just takes you for the ride. Incidentally if you are a fan of the whole black light, neon groove, the checkout 90s movie called ‘The Convent’.
‘The Neon Dead’ is out on VOD through Wild eye releases.