Death of the Dead (2011) Review
As the opening credits of Death of the Dead scrolled by, I got a bit of a surprise when I saw “Director of Photography, Aaron Moorhead”. Yes a year before Resolution got them noticed, one half of the writer/director team behind films like The Endless and Something in the Dirt did the cinematography on this martial arts zom-com, something he probably wishes he wishes nobody noticed.
Wanda (Christina Rose, Alien Apocalypse, Deadheads) is the most picked on girl in her school. Even taking karate lessons from Master Sensei (Jack Abele, Terror of the Master, They Die Lovely) can’t help her lack of popularity, or her coordination for that matter. A disastrous showing against their rival, Evil Sensei (William Lee, 6 Feet Below Hell, Black Wolf) and his number one student Donnie (Michael Blaustein, Attack of the Alien Jelly Monsters from the Depths of Uranus, Up There) only makes things worse.
But when the bus carrying the victorious team back to the dojo gets into an accident with a barrel of toxic waste and turns them into flesh eating zombie ninjas, Wanda may be the world’s only hope. In which case, we are seriously fucked.
Writer Bo Buckley and director Gary King, who had previously collaborated on the cannibals in the swamp film Dismal, come out swinging at all manner of targets. Death of the Dead actually starts with a parody of Carrie’s locker room scene updated with loads of tattoos, breast implants and actresses old enough to have kids in high school. From there they go after The Karate Kid and a flashback spoofs blaxploitation films as we learn how Ghetto Sensei (Davone Aniton) chose Master Sensei as the one to get his martial arts belt of mystic power, before the zombies finally show up and Wanda gets to do the Shaun of the Dead walk obliviously past feasting zombies routine.
As you might expect, the film throws all manner of gags at the viewer in the style of Airplane and The Naked Gun films. Abele even looks somewhat like Leslie Nielsen, which helps to make the approach work. A kiddy pool full of pudding appears for Wanda and her head cheerleader nemesis to fight in, there are multiple references to Master Sensei’s collection of sex toys and even a more creepy than funny bit with Wanda’s stepdad and a buddy wanting her to join the threesome they were having with her mother.
Once the dead start to walk, Death of the Dead looses what little touch it had with reality with multiple comments that break the fourth wall and the humour becomes more outrageous, the highlight being a zombie’s balls being ripped off and used as a weapon, nutchucks if you will. Master Sensei makes Yoda like appearances from beyond the grave, mostly to talk about his dick, and true fans of bad films will recognize a quote from Troll 2 dropped into the mix.
Sadly, Death of the Dead is never as funny, or as raunchy, as it sounds. It flashes a few breasts near the start, then tiptoes around its cruder moments with a wink and a nudge, rather than embracing the subject matter and getting maximum laughs out of it. It also doesn’t help that this was filmed around 2009 and some of the gags, like a reference to 2 Girls 1 Cup, haven’t aged well and will be meaningless to many younger viewers.
Still, there are plenty of jokes that do work, plus an early appearance by genre veteran Jessica Cameron, (Slice & Dice, Human Zoo) to keep viewers entertained. It also doesn’t hurt that Rose makes both a cute nerd and an eye catching killing machine after her transformation. Death of the Dead is worth a watch if your taste in humour runs to this kind of spoof, and I get the feeling it would have seemed even better if I’d had a couple of edibles before watching it.
BayView Entertainment has released Death of the Dead to Digital Platforms.