"American Zombie" is probably the biggest pleasant surprise I encountered in quite a few years and I urge every fan of cinema whether horror or films in general to check it out as soon as the opportunity occurs. The film is an odd and unconventional mixture between a zombie film (duh!) and the so-called "mockumentary" (people with hand-held cameras registering the unusual situation they find themselves stuck in). Just because of this label, I approached "American Zombie" with extreme caution and low anticipations. Let's be honest, the market for zombie movies already suffers from over-saturation since many years and the Mockumentary forms a suddenly unstoppable trend ("Cloverfield", "rec", ) that yet has to prove its stability. George A. Romero also joined in on the combination of zombies and shaky cameras with his latest effort "Diary of the Dead". Now, he's an acclaimed director and even the founding father of zombie cinema, but what to expect from a bunch of inexperienced documentary makers? Well, I love being proved wrong when it comes to innovating and new film projects! "American Zombie" is refreshing, original, intelligent, well structured and far more stylish than it has any right to be. The subject matter may sound ridicule, but writer/director Grace Lee presents everything in a convincing style and even the cast members, who have the difficult task of depicting plausible corpses, play their roles with a constant straight face. The script uniquely introduces resurrection from the dead as some sort of congenital defect, caused by a substance in the brain that is activated in case of a violent death. There are several categories of "Revenants", varying from the absolute braindead to the living dead with most of their vital brain capacities still intact. Throughout a period of several days, a Los Angeles film crew follows four of these "intelligent" zombies and illustrates how they live their everyday afterlife, deal with all sorts of discrimination and desperately attempt to oppress their physical decomposing. Just like normal people, these revenants have different personalities, hopes, desires, sentiments and goals to achieve. Meanwhile the film also centers on the arguments between the filmmakers mutually, as Grace wants to maintain an objective viewpoint whereas John continuously confronts the revenants with provocative questions. The revenants' stories and the crew's constant quarrels are already fascinating to behold, but the script is uplifted to an even higher level of quality through interviews with other groups. There are scientists listing the characteristics and history of the Living Dead, Zombie-haters (displaying various ways to destroy a dead brain) and Zombie-chasers (similar to people who write love letters to convicts on death row). Seemingly without much effort, "American Zombie" succeeds in bringing a biting satire that subtly mocks modern social issues and media sensationalism, but simultaneously doesn't lose track of story depth and character drawings. There are multiple powerful scenes in the film and you honestly come to care for the revenants even though the maggots occasionally fall out of their bodies. "American Zombie" is also a rather atypical "Mocumentary" (since there are still professionals in charge of photography, sound and editing) so the amount of shaky camera movements and extreme close-ups are thankfully kept to a minimum. Highly recommended to open-minded cinema lovers.
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