Original Air Date: 2008 (online and local TV)
Run Time: 24-50 minutes per episode (8 episodes)
As a multi-Dead Letter Award winner, I have a special place in my heart for me fellow DLA honorees, both those that also won this year and those that were graced with the honor in previous years. This year, I was honored to win the awards for Best Non-Fiction Book (for “The G.O.R.E. Score, Vol. 1, available now for only $5!), Best Zombie Website (you’re looking at it), and the Fresh Meat Award for best newcomer to the zombie genre.
So, imagine my delight when I crossed paths at a recent horror convention with my 2009 DLA Fresh Meat Award predecessor, the crew behind the internet-television series Zombie Hunters: City of the Dead. Specifically, I had the chance to speak in-depth with Christopher Murphy, one of the Producers and stars of the series; it was clear from the get-go that Murphy and the rest of the Zombie Hunters team had created this series not out of an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the genre or anything along those lines; rather, they all seemed motivated by their love of horror – zombies in particular – and their commitment to producing the best independent series they possibly could. Their passion is refreshing, much appreciated from this reviewer, and is eminently present on their two-DVD set of Season 1 of the show.
The first (and, to date, only) season of Zombie Hunters put a very interesting spin of the very “classic” style of zombie tale. Taking place as the infection first slowly starts to make its existence known to the world, most of the action follows very regular people as they try to come to grips with exactly what is going on in the world around them. This infection doesn’t go from non-existent to widespread panic overnight; rather, it slowly builds, leaving many people with little choice but to attempt to go on with their lives as normal (or at least as normally as possible). A group of acquaintances, mostly guys with very thinly hidden love of guns and mayhem, team together to form a vigilante group with the intent of keeping their neighborhood and loved ones safe. As situations tend to go in zombie outbreaks, however, the action escalates and things quickly get very chaotic for the group.
Let’s head right on to the Score so I can tell you more:
G: General Entertainment – Make no mistake about it: as mentioned previously, Zombie Hunters: City of the Dead is quite the independent fare. Quite frankly, it’s some of the best independent stuff I’ve ever come across. Series Creator and Director (and star!) Patrick Devaney has clearly put an insane amount of personal time and effort into the creation of this series, and it shows. The average zombie fan, who has been coddled by big-budget Hollywood and their ease of putting very “pretty-looking” films up on the screen, may not appreciate the passion and “by the fans, for the fans” mentality that Zombie Hunters provides; that, of course, is their loss. True horror fans should be able to take one look at this series and know that, while it may not be the flashiest story around, it feels like a true horror story, and you can never truly go wrong with that. 8/10
O: Original Content – While the over-arching plot of the series so far is your standard “slow zombies are taking over and kinda unstoppable” fare, the high score in this section comes from the series’ attention to detail in slow-rolling the start of the outbreak. With a nice nod to Night of the Living Dead in the first scene of the first episode, Devaney and company make it clear that the widespread epidemic is still a long ways off, but the journey of getting to that point (or not, if you believe a cure is to be found) is where Zombie Hunters separates itself from other tales. 8/10
R: Realism – The only major drawback to independently-produced fare is that the viewer must understand the low-budget nature of the project. I’ll speak more to this in the E section, but in terms of reality, the actors and their performances do come into play. To my knowledge, most if not all of the on-screen talent in this series is working “for the love of the project” (a.k.a. for free); it’s incredibly valiant, and the majority of the main characters do a decent job of creating their personas and sticking with that performance throughout the entire series. Many of the extras, however, I found a bit lacking in the realism department. The zombie extras were serviceable enough, but the vast majority of spoken-role “bit parts” left me wanting much more, including (god bless them for trying) the wholly unbelievable newsdesk anchors that popped up far too often for my taste in the first half of the season. 5/10
E: Effects and Editing – On the flip side, Zombie Hunters does a great job of spilling the blood and guts like it’s going out of style, and I loved seeing the various zombie mayhem in all the carnage-filled glory. There is a copious amount of firearm-shooting, and while I could have done with less CGI-added muzzle fire, I understand why it had to be done for the safety of cast and crew. The sound editing (particularly music selection) and camera work are far above average for this kind of production, although it does seem like the crew might have been using two distinctly different types of camera, and the result is noticeable via the on-screen resolution from shot to shot – a minor annoyance only. 7/10
TOTAL SCORE: 7/10
Anyone with a camera and a half-baked idea can go out and film 80 minutes or so worth of footage and call it a “zombie movie.” Zombie Hunters: City of the Dead gives viewers so much more: in an 8-episode first season, including the final two installments being “super-sized” in length, viewers are given almost five hours worth of story content, and that’s not including some pretty cool deleted scenes and other extras included on the DVDs. It’s low-budget, independent fare, yes; but it’s independent fare with heart, which makes it some of the finest you can find.
SPECIAL NOTE: Now through July 1, you can get the entire first season on DVD for only $20, and Devarez Films (Zombie Hunters’ production company) is donating all proceeds to a charity fund to help defray medical costs of a little girl who suffered brain trauma and amputation, all before her first birthday. PLEASE consider visiting the Zombie Hunters website at http://www.zombiehuntershow.com and purchasing the DVDs directly from their store.
And now, my friends, you know the Score!