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oblivion [Celluloid 08.27.08] zombies movie review

Year: 2008
Release date: Unknown
Director: Wolf Wolff & Ohmuthi
Writer: Wolf Jahnke
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: oblivion
Rating: 2 out of 10

Virus Undead is, quite possibly, one of the worst movies I have ever seen. With the exception of some solid cinematography and interesting shots, the film is lackluster in every way. It fails to deliver on anything but exposition, which is only done well in the opening 10 minutes. After that, the plot kicks in and ruins any hope of redeeming value. Even the zombies are unimpressive, though the make-up artists did a fair job with them. Any thrill we'd get from seeing the walking dead (that should, ultimately, be a focus of this genre) fails after waiting through 50 monotonous minutes for a mere glimpse. What action we do see is short and stale, and any tension is lost in how utterly obvious everything is. After the opening narrative and montage, Virus Undead is like a dilapidated mosaic of poorly done clichés.

As a horror movie, Virus Undead looks like an homage to Hitchcock’s The Birds. The virus acts as a degenerative transformative agent, so that it turns the living into zombies by making them mindlessly aggressive and grow boils on their skin. In the beginning, it is explained that the infection is, basically, the avian bird-flu with the exception that it can mutate randomly. This makes it difficult for any vaccine to work permanently, since it is the wildlife that carries the disease. There are plenty of menacing plague-inducing flocks in this film, and in a vague sense we get the idea that they are the cause of all the havoc wreaked. However, other than there being birds in the film, any similarities to Hitchcock are absent. There is no suspense, nor is there the tension needed for a true horror film. It can only be considered horror because it calls itself so.

A good zombie movie has a premise (the reason for the walking dead), the tension of horror-filled survival, maybe some gore, plenty of the undead, a few fights, a few bites, and, in the case of the best in the genre, a strong social statement stemming from alienation or identity. To fill in the gaps in the middle of all of that, we get some characters, a little exposition, and a general plot underlying the obvious one. Virus Undead fails to be compelling on all fronts. The premise of the virus is never brought home, being mostly an idea that takes a back-seat to the exposition storyline. This backstory tries to carry the movie for entirely too long. After only 20 minutes, I wanted to see a zombie, or really anything to depart from the tired plot. What I got was 30 more minutes of poorly executed explanation, clichéd background, and a sex scene I didn’t even care about. This was followed by another half-hour of horrendously hackneyed cinema.

The characters are ridiculously clichéd and flat, seeming like cardboard cut-outs. We find ourselves centered on Robert (Philipp Danne), a medical student and grandson of the now deceased doctor who famously created the original vaccine for the virus. Robert is the balanced, charismatic, intelligent hero who has come back to his gloomy past in a town he left behind years ago. His nemesis, or rather the hard-ass bully/villain from his past, is a stereotypical tattooed, cursing, empty source of unexplained hatred (incidentally, I laughed as, with his sunglasses on, I seriously thought this was a cameo by the lead-singer of Smashmouth). But the worst is Patrick (Marvin Gronen) whose dialog as he hits on Vanessa is hysterical in how openly cheesy it is. It doesn’t end there. Every time Patrick said anything, I found myself thinking of Jean Reno’s classically horrible impression of John Wayne in Leon: The Professional. I wondered if this was intentional, and if all the bad screenplay choices, and all the horrible lines, were really a social commentary about the clichéd things American audiences fall for. This movie could be a great statement in that way. Alas, that was only me trying to find a redeeming quality for a terrible film. It becomes apparent that this commentary is not intentional.

As I said before, the action is completely lacking. After waiting way too long, what we do get comes in the form of what seems like pro-wrestling zombies. Hilariously, the virus seems to do much more than turn people into the undead. The slutty gas station attendant Vanessa (Anna Breuer) morphs into an intelligent amateur scientist who is also very handy with a sledgehammer. The nerdy scientist Eugen (Nikolas Jurgens) starts as an obvious pensive introvert who is, of course, quite a bit socially awkward. When the virus takes hold, he becomes a courageous mad-scientist sharpshooter capable of hitting a zombie dead between the eyes. He does this with a .357 from the second story balcony and from at least 80 feet away. This is also despite the fact that he quite clearly drank a good deal of wine and absinthe earlier in the night. The only real survival action we get is when Vanessa inexplicably decides to jump out the window of the mansion and go toe-to-toe with the zombie mob, sledgehammer in hand. But this isn’t really survival as she has absolutely zero reason to do it. I did, however, laugh hysterically when the two characters remaining in the house immediately try to board up all the windows and doors. So much for loyalty.

Later, at the climax, comes a horrible editing mistake, where we find two characters on a rooftop. First one is hanging on to the other to prevent himself from falling, and then they are both quite safely aboard. Then she drops her weapon, which conveniently falls right onto an unsuspecting zombie’s head, and suddenly she is hanging off the roof. How did that happen? To be honest I kept asking myself this throughout the movie about many, many things. The action only comes in these inexplicable and completely forced scenes that end up seeming completely random. If this were intentional, it would probably be funny.

Perhaps something got lost in translation, as the movie is German and seems to be made for an American audience? Nope. It lays bare what could be done with good storytelling techniques, leaving ruined any tension that could be created. The lack of guesswork and earned audience investment is a hallmark of this screenplay. Routinely, we find the characters announcing things that no real person would say about themselves. The dialog seems to be an unwitting farce, and any chemistry possible in the acting is lost by the ridiculous lines. The script is poorly written, and the plotting itself isn’t any better. For instance, when it becomes time to explicitly explain the effects of the virus all of the remaining characters are suddenly capably postulating scientists. And, of course, the great doctor’s laboratory and mansion, where most of the story unfolds, also contains a small arsenal of weapons. In addition to the enigmatic effects of the virus on the living and the suspect action scenes, most of the movie seems to just randomly, and quite bafflingly, happen. But, hey, who ever looked for an ounce of believability in a zombie flick?

In the end I felt nothing but disappointment. The camera work remained solid throughout, and I did think that, with the sound off to mute the torturous script, the movie would be watchable. Ultimately, though, there just isn’t anything original about this effort, and anything that could be considered fun to watch is just poorly done. There is nothing to indicate that the many laughs I got were made to be this way. This is not Evil Dead, or Shaun of the Dead, or Fido. Truthfully, I felt bad for laughing at this movie, but I had to entertain myself somehow. I am a fan of the zombie genre, and I hope that one day these films get the credit and acclaim they deserve, but Virus Undead is one giant leap in the wrong direction.

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Shane Schofield (12 years ago) Reply

I'm from Germany and saw this crap at the FANTASY FILMFEST in Berlin with the crew. A very boring and lame excuse for a zombie movie. Please everboydy...don't waste your time.


porfle (11 years ago) Reply

I may be the only one, but I enjoyed this movie a lot.


chief98110 (10 years ago) Reply

I agree a terrible movie

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