It was Michael Corleone who said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”. But Carlo Serrelli (Robert Belushi, Sorority Row, Devil’s Due), the unwilling mobster at the center of Witness Infection certainly can relate. He’s happy running a dog grooming salon with his girlfriend Gina (Jill-Michele Melean, Swing State), but fate, as well as mafia traditions, have other plans for him.
The Witness Protection Program has not only sent his family to Temecula, it’s sent their rivals the Miola family there as well. The families need a marriage and a child to avoid an all-out war. Unfortunately, Dominic’s (Bret Ernst, Cobra Kai) excessive steroid use has left him sterile, so his father (Carlos Alazraqui, The Fairly Odd Parents, Animaniacs) informs him that he will have to marry Patricia Miola (Erinn Hayes, Final Stab, Bill & Ted Face the Music) instead. His attempts to avoid the wedding threaten to get everyone killed but a zombie outbreak caused by tainted meat may offer him a permanent way out. If it doesn’t get everyone killed.
Written by Carlos Alazraqui and Jill-Michele Melean and directed by Andy Palmer (Camp Cold Brook, Badlands of Kain) Witness Infection is a spoof of romcoms, mob movies and zombie films. That’s a mix that just seemed to be asking for trouble. How many really funny zombie films can you name? There’s Shaun of the Dead and Cooties but then you have to go all the way back to Return of the Living Dead. Also, while I’ve liked Palmer’s straight horror films, his previous horror-comedy, The Funhouse Massacre, didn’t impress me.
Thankfully Witness Infection mostly gets it right. The first third is, apart from the prologue, zombie free. Keeping things on the level of a more typical comedy it sets up the characters while avoiding the temptation to go off in too many directions at once. The zombies start showing up around the start of the second act but don’t really come into play until around the halfway mark. At which point the film changes gears and becomes a blood-soaked horror comedy complete with disembowelment and intestine chomping.
Fans will catch nods to several films ranging from the obvious such as Shaun of the Dead to more contemporary Korean fare. Classic blaxploitation even gets its due via Rose (Monique Coleman, High School Musical) a bad-ass babe in the style of Coffy and TNT Jackson. However, Witness Infection could have done without Carlo’s best friend Vince (Vince Donvito, Alienated, The Hunchback), an aspiring filmmaker, turning everything into a movie reference. He even narrates their flight from the zombies in script form.
At times Witness Infection does lean a little too much on tired Italian-American stereotypes. And before anyone goes there, I’m not offended by it, I’m bored with it. I suppose they come with the territory seeing as it’s spoofing mafia films which used them, but I’d rather see more original material rather than stuff that was already cliched when I was a kid.
Thankfully the cast manages to liven these parts up as best they can. While their names may not be familiar a lot of their faces will be. Or in several cases such as Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic) and Gary Anthony Williams (American Dad!, Star Wars Resistance), it’s their voices that will be familiar.
Witness Infection is an enjoyable if uneven, film that should get you laughing. Freestyle Digital Media will release it on cable, satellite and Digital HD on March 30th. You can check the film’s website and Facebook page for more details.