Project Z Banner

Project Z (2021) Review

What do you get if you cross One Cut of the Dead and The Blair Witch Project? Quite possibly you would get something like Project Z, or Prosjekt Z if you prefer, a Norwegian horror comedy that combines student filmmakers, aliens and zombies. As a title card informs us,

“Some students went to an old motel to make a zombie movie. This movie was put together with the recordings left behind.”

Project Z

Julie (Eili Harboe, Thelma, The Wave) is making a zombie movie, “De Døde Våkner” (The Dead Awakens). But this isn’t just a common gut muncher mind you, but a serious film with quotes from Kubrick and one of the characters Rebecca, played by Iben (Iben Akerlie, Lake of Death, Mortal) having a threesome with a pair of zombies.

On their way to the location, the radio mentions a massive meteor shower and as if on cue, a meteorite slams into another car, knocking it off the road. In what seems like normal fashion, one person calls for help while everyone else films it for Instagram. That’s just a prelude to the huge one that will interrupt filming a few hours later.

Project Z 1

Not that filming has been going overly smoothly. Between Julie’s ego, the cinematographer Felix (Vebjørn Enger, Ragnarök, The Ash Lad: In Search of the Golden Castle), who also happens to be her boyfriend, flirting with Iben things are already off to a rough start. That’s compounded by Dennis (Dennis Storhøi, The 13th Warrior, Troll), the past his prime star they’ve got to play a cross-dressing zombie, considering himself above working with students.

Despite the title and marketing, Project Z is actually more of a film about filmmaking than it is a zombie film. Even after Felix and Leon (Jonis Josef, Nothing to Laugh About, Three Wishes for Cinderella) have a close encounter with a meteorite and its occupant the script goes back to gags about “Insert VFX plate here”, actors adding too many “fucks” to their dialogue and endless retakes.

Project Z 2

Writer/director Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken (Returning Home, An Affair) may well have turned experiences he’s had on various film sets into the script for Project Z. Several of the events in it have the feel of stories I’ve had people tell me from their own indie filmmaking careers and some of it is quite funny. Unfortunately some of it also seems very flat, whether it was badly written or the humour was lost in translation I’m not sure. Either way, I found myself sitting through more than one protracted scene or monologue wishing the zombies would show up.

That happens around the sixty-minute mark, and they really aren’t zombies, they’re alien possessed bodies, which is a potentially better development. Unfortunately, much of Project Z’s final act is shot in the kind of extremely jerky, what did I just see style which is more headache inducing than scary. The film’s two best horror scenes are actually part of The Dead Awaken, he first a scene where a character explores an abandoned hotel full of mannequins which put me in mind of Tourist Trap. At the other end of the spectrum there’s a zombie killing spree set to “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”. Honorable mention goes to a nod to The Blob involving a meteorite.

Project Z 3

I’m left conflicted over Project Z. There are several good scenes, and the ending did catch me off guard. But the dull spots really made the film drag, and I wasn’t thrilled with the way much of the last act was shot. Fans of old school found footage films may enjoy the last act more than I did, just as those more involved in filmmaking, or are Norwegian, may get more out of the scenes I found dull.

If Project Z sounds interesting to you, then give it a shot. But you may want to keep your expectations in check. Dark Star Pictures will release Project Z in theatres on November 3rd. It will be available on Digital and DVD on November 11th.

YouTube video
Where to watch Project Z
Our Score
Scroll to Top