With a title like that, there’s really only two ways the film could turn out. It could either be a completely gimmicky and amateurish film that relied solely on its title to sell itself (like, say, Kottentail) or it could be the greatest thing in the name of ever.
When the movie started with a cheesy 80s title sequence that seems like it was pulled straight off a VHS tape, complete with synthy musical fanfare, I have to admit- I got scared. But my fears were unfounded. MVZFTH (I’ll be damned if I type that out every time) isn’t a modern classic by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s definitely one of the most fun flicks you’re likely to see this year, and heads and shoulders above most of its more recent zombie movie peers.
The film starts off with a nice montage showing the nice, beautiful, sunny parts of LA with surf music in the background, and then heads to progressively worse sections until it’s night and we’re in the hood, blasting the great underground hip hop that’s present through most of the film. MVZFTH stars Outsiders star and Junior Rodeo Champion (seriously) C. Thomas Howell as a cop in LA who’s working a drug case with an informant. He and his partner are camped outside a warehouse waiting for the deal. Two gangs of Black and Chinese backgrounds are inside, led by G-Dog (Tyshawn Bryant) and Dragon (Robert Wu) respectively. Dragon has kidnapped G-Dog’s girl Latiffa, and is trading her back for a whole bunch of coke. When the deal finally goes down, the cops rush in to stop it and end up in a firefight.
But there are bigger things happening in the world, and TO it, actually. The entire Earth gets hit by a solar flare that’s passing by that makes the sky turn crazy colors and everyone pass out mid-gunfight.
When they wake up, G-Dog’s gang is in charge. They head outside to see what was going on and notice that not only does the sky look like they’re tripping on acid, but there’s some zombies milling about eating people. With help from an old man with good aim (the incredible Maxie J. Santillan Jr., who acts as the obligatory “character who teaches the rules of killing zombies to the people confused by the fact that this person keeps advancing even though they keep shooting them” guy) they head on back to the warehouse.
The two things any man needs to survive a zombie apocalypse.
There they realize that, much like in Night of the Comet, they’ve survived because they were all hidden from the solar flare by the lead-lined warehouse (with glass windows, humorously enough).
The old man tells the rest of the crew that he’s been watching TV, or at least the only channel still broadcasting. A scientist in Santa Monica has hacked into the broadcast to implore people to come visit him, and bring guns for him and his sexy stepdaughter. Having no better idea of what to do, our unlikely team of gang members and the Soul Man band together and walk their way over.
Along the way, they see the way the mutation has affected different people, depending on how much untainted blood they’ve drank…. and encounter different strains of zombie vampire. They also find out (the hard way) how horny some of these zombies are….
This film really is a blast. Sure, at its most basic it’s simply a zombie movie, but the story is what makes it work.
Tons of zombie movies since Night of the Living Dead have tried to put a little bit of a racial aspect to the film, and of course MVZFTH is no exception. Here the varied groups quickly put aside their differences and learn to fight together. (Interesting how in a lot of them the only time we can all get along is when we’ve got something else to hate and fear, eh?) But the different groups work well together here and add a different feel to the flick. It also doesn’t shy away from racial humor or poking fun at our differences, which is refreshing in a genre where it’s known that the black man always dies first.
This is the look everyone made while watching Diary of the Dead.
It goes without saying, but the movie is pretty funny as well, and thankfully it’s all intentional humor. We’re used to smaller genre films being enjoyable for all the wrong reasons, but here (besides a few silly parts) the film remains above that. Why? Because the script is clever and the characters are for the most part unique and likeable. Even the secondary characters are incredibly memorable, and that adds that much more to the enjoyment of the film.
There’s a ton of homages to old classics, too, although I’m getting a little sick at the self-referential zombie flicks. Everyone in a zombie movie knows his Romero these days, and they frequently getting into “shambling vs. running” debates. It works here because it’s more an action comedy (with plenty of gore!), but it’s still a little eye-rolling. And speaking of eye rolling, a Snakes on a Plane joke? Couple of years too late for that, guys.
On the other hand, quoting Aliens never gets old. One of the funniest characters is KeiKabou Holland’s Larson, who comes off like a black Bill Paxton, except perhaps not as terrified. The guy just does a fantastic job of looking freaked out just with his mannerisms… and his Nosferatu rants make me laugh every time.
The special effects definitely deserve some praise here, as the zombies are as disgusting-looking as they should be, and get blown away in beautiful fashion. The effects and makeup were done by American Makeup and Effects, who are no beginners to effects. They’ve done them for all three Pirates of the Caribbean flicks, The Toolbox Murders, Jarhead, and also were the best part of the otherwise shitty Day of the Dead remake. Wait till you get to their one showpiece scene…. it’s actually pretty disgusting, even if it does feel a little out of place from the rest of the film.
But there are truly some great zombie chowdown scenes, and fights. There are plenty of guns to go around and the benefit of having gang members as your characters is that they all know how to handle a piece, and even throw down when the bloodsuckers get too close. The fights are pretty exciting and well choreographed, too.
So, it’s not the best movie ever made and is definitely an acquired taste, but if the title made you chuckle you should definitely consider checking it out. At this point I’m beyond sick of zombie movies, but this one adds enough of a twist to the genre to be enjoyable. MVZFTH is just really fun as shit, and if you get the chance to see this in theaters during its festival I couldn’t recommend it enough.
One final note- at the very end of the credits they hint at one of the characters returning in another, equally absurd titled film. Let’s hope it’s true, because we need another movie from these guys.
Mutant Vampire Zombies From the ‘Hood! has its premiere at the San Francisco IndieFest this Friday, June 6th…. with more screenings on the 13th and 18th. Check here for more details. And check out their official site for a trailer, and to keep up to date on future screenings.