Original Release Date: not yet publically available
Run Time: 91 minutes
I will forever be indebted to you, my great Neighbor to the North, for giving the world William Shatner, one of my all-time heroes. However, you also spawned Celine Dion, so I may have to detract a few points from you for that one.
I need something from you, Canada. The novelty of Terrance and Phillip from “South Park,” while hilarious, has long since faded for me (even though I did dress as half the duo for Halloween in college one year), and Bryan Adams compounds the whole “too many terrible singers from the Maple Leaf Land” thing. Let’s face it: Shatner, as awesome as he is, is no dulcet-toned songbird.
So here is your shot at redemption, Realm of the Mounties: an independent zombie movie from Canadian filmmaker Thomas Newman, shot on the most shoestring of budgets and with a really, really interesting title: Bong of the Dead.
Yes, you read that last bit correctly: here we are in the “Golden Age” of zombie mash-ups, and Newman has managed to combine two elements I haven’t seen used in tandem much at all, the reanimated and the reefer. In this tawdry tale of tokin’ terror, a fairly-standard zombie epidemic has struck the land, and the government has managed to create “Danger Zones” where the still-active undead are supposed to be contained, although this story finds more than one member of the walking dead out and about in the cities and countryside. Two stoners accidentally discover that a ground-up zombie brain is the perfect fertilizer for the growth of über-strong weed, so naturally their priority quickly becomes setting out to find more undead to use for their hash heaven. Along the way, they meet a pretty girl (surprise, surprise) and a zombie with the ability to think, so as you might guess: mayhem ensues.
Let’s doobie-doobie-do our way into the Score:
G: General Entertainment – I watched this film while stone-cold sober, and I have to admit, I still laughed a good amount. Credit Newman (who wrote the movie as well as directed it) for not taking himself or his characters too seriously; from the get-go of the kitschy-yet-awesome opening credits, the tone of Bong is set with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. The cast and crew mostly seem to feel this vibe as well; they realize that they may not exactly be making a film for Oscar consideration, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get down and have some fun with it. 7/10
O: Original Content – As I mentioned, the genesis of the zombies in this story is a fairly standard one, and much of the background details are actually pretty minimalized to the point where they are not even discussed. The “meteor as the cause of the plague” approach has been done many times over, but Newman still manages to infuse it with his own singular branding. At times, it feels that Bong is borrowing story-telling and presentation elements directly from other zombie movies like Slither, Dead Alive, Resident Evil, and others, but credit still needs to be given for this tale’s distinctive approach of Reefer Madness meets Dawn of the Dead. 5/10
R: Realism – I’ve written 150-plus G.O.R.E. Score reviews, and every time I come to the “R” section, I still give pause to what constitutes “realism” in a story about the undead. Ultimately, it’s about how characters react and situations present themselves within the context established by the story’s narrative. Are there situations in Bong that make no sense, like the slow-motion reveal of the two stoners and the token hot chick coming out of the farm shack touting insanely-large weapons and dressed all in black leather when there was no hint of these items to be found earlier in the story? Definitely. Do the characters in this film make dumb decision after dumb decision and act like idiots in general? Absolutely. The former is an example of exaggerated story-telling that may not sit well with “film purists,” but the latter makes perfect sense by virtue of taking place in a story about potheads and yokels who don’t listen to the government and aren’t the brightest bulbs in the pack to begin with. So, we’ll split the difference on the numbers here. 5/10
E: Effects and Editing – Almost every review you’ll read about this movie will inform you that Newman shot the entire film in 15 days and had a total budget of only around $5,000. I guess I’ve just told you that, too; while the accuracy of these numbers shouldn’t be questioned, as Newman himself pointed them out to me with pride during our recent communications, what is important to focus on is that the film looks great from start to finish, and it was clearly constructed by someone who has a love and appreciation for the horror and comedy genres. I’m not sure if more money was added to the initial budget for post-production, but the vast majority of the film has some sort of composite effect in most shots, whether it’s passable-looking CGI zombie carnage or other visual tweaks that really do help give this movie a feel that is all its own. The zombie-related physical appearance and gore are, in a word, amazing; gorehounds should be happy to view this film from this standpoint alone. The audio is a bit odd; apparently the entire movie, from dialogue to sound effects, was re-dubbed in post-production. Whether this was due to the loss of the original soundtrack or for some other reason is unknown to me. While it is a bit off-putting at first, once you settle in it just becomes second nature to the tone of the film, and wasn’t that big of an issue for me personally. Overall, the film looked pretty good (especially in the physical-effects department) and didn’t run too long, which makes it a winner for me in this department. 8/10
TOTAL SCORE: 6.25/10
Sadly, the movie is not yet available for sale; it is currently making the rounds at film festivals and will hopefully be out on DVD for public consumption sometime soon. Bong of the Dead is definitely not for everyone, but if you’re in the mood for a goofy zombie movie that looks good and you won’t have to think too much about, you should definitely bake up a fresh batch of “special brownies” and check this one out when you can.
And now, my friends, you know the Score!