Written by Bo Buckley and directed by Gary King, the Horror Comedy DEATH OF THE DEAD judo chops you with a rubber chicken to the face. Actress Christina Rose plays Wanda, a a four-eyed geek trying to survive high school. Bullied by the slutty cheerleaders and ridiculed at every turn, Wanda finds solace in the Karate tutelage of Master Sensei at the Mojo Dojo. Don’t go thinking Mister Miyagi, but instead envision a lecherous Tim Conway. Master Sensei doesn’t quite help with her issues of self esteem, he’s busy dealing with his own penchants for ball gags and sex toys. Master Sensei also possesses a magical belt passed on to him with the secrets of his martial arts that he hopes to impart onto Wanda.
The villain of the story, Evil Sensei (formerly Dave), has been teaching the dark arts at his dojo, Killer Ninjas. There the lesson taught is kill or …. well, just kill. Wanda must face-off against Donnie, a school bully and Evil Sensei’s star student, at the weekend Karate Tournament. It’s a classic send up of of light versus dark and all the visual stylings you’ve come to expect from such genre films. After the evil dojo wins the tournament when Wanda runs away in embarrassment, the Killer Ninjas all die in a bus accident. Good thing there’s a pair of scientists dumping some toxic chemicals down the drain that resurrects the evil spin-kickers as slack jawed brain munchers that can fight Karate and zombies, it’s like peanut butter and bacon. Think THE KARATE KID swallowed up by SHAUN OF THE DEAD and injected with AIRPLANE! and you’ll see the timeline of influences.
Now the town is overrun by zombies, but not just your garden variety of shambling flesh bags. Since the Killer Ninjas were the first infected anyone they bite turn into super powered Ninja Zombies. They also talk and have a sense of consciousness along with their abilities to scissor kick your skull. After Master Sensei is murdered at the hands of a zombie Evil Sensei, Wanda is on her own to harness the power of a magical belt and find a cure to defeat the walking dead hordes to save the town. It also helps that she slips herself into a form fitting little number that could double as an Elektra costume come Halloween. Plus there’s gratuitous locker room nudity, pudding wrestling, fart jokes, and the sight gags abound.
The special effects are straight forward, taken about as seriously as the fight choreography. The believability of all of it would can be hinged on the same talents you’d find in a Troma film, though the stunt work is pretty impressive considering the multiple camera angles needed to effectively pull it off. The visual styling and the editing move the cinematography along at a noteworthy pace for a low budget feature. The fluidity grabs your attention and holds tight. If one joke or gag falls flat it’s on to the next one, never lingering in what does or doesn’t work, instead cramming ten pounds of entertainment in a five pound bag. The acting is fun to watch as the characters bounce off of one another delivering a heroine you can actually root for, even when you’re knowingly handed all the exploited pratfalls of similar story lines the filmmakers exploit in its realization. You don’t see this much ham at a Hormel Foods factory.
This flick is definitely made for movie nerds with a strong sense of humor and a stomach for carnage, with homages paid to KUNG FU, KILL BILL, and even TROLL 2. The actors chew the scenery without going over the top, keeping the absurdity of the story in check at a pace that makes you wonder how they plan to top themselves from the last scene. It’s a refreshing blend of genres by mixing it all with a unified humor into something new and noteworthy. The film is a return to low-budget campiness done right, supercharged on its own absurdity and oozing with blood splattered fun. Never afraid to be sardonic or even break the fourth wall, with DEATH OF THE DEAD there’s plenty of laughs to be had the next time your beer swilling goons you call friends demand you to entertain them.
Be on the look out for the next feature from Strange Stuff – Attack of the Alien Jelly Monsters From the Depths of Uranus – currently in post production.