Wednesday, June 11, 2014

my thoughts on.... 'Battle of the Damned'

Anyone who knows me, has read this blog or listened to any of my podcasts know.... I love zombies. Ever since I watched 'Dawn of the Dead' (1978) in 1996, I've been hooked. I just can't get enough zombies. Over the years, we've seen the market saturated with a glut of zombies every where. Any student out to make his first movie, wants to make a zombie film. They want to either change the genre somehow or just want an easy student project with minimal make up work and an open market. It's made the die hard fans have to dig even deeper through the muck and muddle to find the diamonds in the rough. There's still plenty of good stuff out there, but not always the most original stuff. When I first heard that Dolph Lundgren was making a zombie movie, I was geeked. I've been a fan of his work since I watched 'Rocky 4'. Then I heard that it was a zombie movie he was making. I got even MORE geeked! Then I heard it had robots too! I nearly had a nerdgasm all over the computer monitor. What more could you want in a zombie movie? To be honest, it stole from a basic concept I'd come up with years ago, but luckily it didn't steal my whole idea. What it did do though, was make a genre that is hard to improve on and gave it a fun little tweak that any horror movie fan will get a kick out of. Granted, you have to leave your brain at the door and make sure you have plenty of popcorn on hand. This is one of THOSE movies for sure.

The first thing that struck me with this movie was the way the zombies are dealt with. This really could have been done as a student film, if they hadn't stuck so much money into making the robots. In the process of focusing on them, they pushed the zombie effects to the side. The zombie make up, more or less, consists of some basic make up and a couple of applications. There's nothing fancy or even remotely good about the special effects in this movie. With that being said, they really did a stellar job with the robots. They played up on the fact that they were designed to be utilitarian in design, but perfectly suited to be combat ready. They're the straight man to Lundgren's hero and the perfect foil for the zombie hordes. The effects crew on this movie spent a long time designing the overall look and feel of the robots. They feel like they could honestly be in any factory out there right now. Doing a job on an assembly line, putting cars together, welding or other labor intensive work. I was really surprised at how realistic they really were. Granted, the effects didn't always hold up to a big budget standard, but it was way above average for this kind of Sci-Fi original movie. Back to the zombies, who needs to shoot them in the head when you can kill them by slitting their throats? Right? That's just one of the many ways these paper thin zombies can be killed again. It's as if they truly are just actors with make up on. This is the one part of the movie that bothered me the most. I mean, where's the danger when you can just shoot em' once and they're down? There's really no threat, other than when they're in big numbers. Then.... you're in trouble. Unless you have robots.

The basic premise of this movie is one that's been used a lot. Most famously in 'Escape From New York'. Send in the hero to an area everyone else is scared to go, have him rescue someone who's trapped and get back out safe. Yup. That's the premise of this movie too. Nothing new here, but still fun none the less. It tells the story of Max Gatling (clever, right?), a man on a mission. He leads a team into the hordes of zombies. Once inside, his team slowly begins to get smaller and soon his true intentions are discovered. He's not just there for any reason, he's there to rescue Jude by any means necessary. What he didn't count on was bringing a bunch of other people with him and that the basic bad guy in the story, is also Jude's boyfriend.... and the father of her unborn child. This makes everything much more complicated than before, but there's one thing Max didn't factor into the equation. The fact that there's a factory in the zombie infested zone and all of the robots inside of there, had gone bezerk not long ago. They were still alive and kicking, but now they were killing zombies, instead of humans. Soon they form an alliance and next thing you know: it's Dolph and robots vs. zombies! Much killing ensues. It's wonderful!

There's really not that much more to say about this movie. It's just big, dumb fun and to be honest.... in a sub genre of horror movies, it's really refreshing to see something you've never seen before. It's also a good thing to see Dolph Lundgren making a comeback. Luckily for him, 'The Expendables' keeps making more movies, as it keeps him working. This movie isn't going to change anyone's lives and it's really just a grade above the quality of 'Sharknado', but don't let that stop you from taking the time to watch it. This is a hidden little gem that needs an audience. I, personally, will eventually own this. I think it has a high re-watchability factor and one that will gain cult status someday. It's just so terribly and amazingly bad that it comes all the way back around to being good again. There's very little not too like about this movie and believe me, I tried really hard to hate it. I couldn't do it. I just kept smiling and wonder who in the hell came up with this story and why has it taken so long? George A. Romero this ain't. This is pure and utter schlocktastic good times! Watch this soon, please.

I'd give this 3 out of 5 stars and firmly believe it's got longevity built in. This is one that will live on in infamy. Mark my words on this.

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