(working titles: O.A.Z. OLD AGED ZOMBIES; O.A.Z. NAN FROM HELL)
Whispered narration opens this film, explaining that a demonic curse has befallen upon a small Welsh town, claiming only the elderly as its victims. That's all we need to know.
We then meet teenager Ed (Marcus Carroll) and his motley bunch of mates as they hang out in the local church, bemoaning the fact that nothing ever happens in their sleepy little town anymore. They're soon proven very wrong when a thunderstorm suddenly breaks out overhead, the force of which is such that it causes the church walls to crack. Out from the cracks emit strange shadows resembling demonic hands. Ed and co don't fuck about - they flee without hesitation.
The following morning, we witness as Ed gets up and ambles to his Nan's (Abigail Hamilton) bedroom to wake her. He quickly senses that something is amiss. It certainly is: Nan has been transformed overnight into a zombie demon.
Barricading himself in his bedroom, Ed rings horror expert pal Dai (Oliver Ferriman) for advice. He's extremely excited at the prospect of a zombie demon outbreak, telling Ed to stay put, load up on weapons and prepare "to kick ass". In the meantime, Ed feels the need to ring round his other buddies and ensure their safety. These include his cute but estranged girlfriend Gemma (Nia Ann); her pretty friend Ceri (Sabrina Dickens); traumatised Billy (Edward Way) who we first meet as he's being attacked by his freshly undead mother; woman's man Gaz (Darren Freebury-Jones), who puts himself in mortal danger by being engaged in a sexual relationship with Billy's gran; Corey (writer-director Tudley James), witnessed fending off his elderly neighbour.
Each of these kids is going through their own tribulations (other than Dai, who's rather enjoying observing the mayhem in the streets outside from the comfort of his bedroom window). We follow their individual plights for the remainder of the film, focusing heavily - of course - on poor Ed and the ravenous granny he's determined to keep at bay.
At one point, he manages to call the police and convince them to come round to arrest him for being a time-waster. This doesn't end well, and before long Ed is holed up in his kitchen with a bewildered PC Harvey (William Huw) for company.
As the zombie infestation takes over the streets and the kids frantically try to survive long enough to all band together, Ed must find a way to get out of his and escape the bloodthirsty advances of his cannibalistic Nan. He may even win Gemma back in the meantime...
SHAUN OF THE DEAD has a lot to answer for. Not only did it usher in the "zom-com" which we've seen aplenty in recent years - WARM BODIES, BOY EATS GIRL etc - but it also opened the floodgates for aspiring filmmakers to cash-in on the title of Romero's seminal DAWN. Hence, we've seen the likes of GOAL OF THE DEAD, BONG OF THE DEAD, PORN OF THE DEAD, the short SAUNA THE DEAD and even STAG NIGHT OF THE DEAD.
Well now, we get GRANNY OF THE DEAD. And, as the above synopsis may suggest, this is the closest "homage" to SHAUN I've yet seen. Eternal slacker Ed even vows to Gemma when wooing her back over the 'phone: "I'm gonna come for you and I'm gonna save the fuckin' day".
It does possess a few ideas of its own, admittedly. The fact that this zombie outbreak is kick-started by a demonic curse and not voodoo or something chemical is somewhat refreshing. And kudos must go to James for finding a host of elderly Welsh folk who were willing to race around their local town in heavy make-up while dripping in fake blood.
The cast are amiable and take to their slimly-drawn characters with verve. There's a distinctive near-sepia hue to proceedings too, which helps lend the film a more unique look and feel (as well cleverly disguising its undoubtedly micro-budget limitations).
James, whose previous credits include 2010's TRACKDOWN and 2011's DOWN THE DARK ROAD - which he co-helmed alongside Jared Morgan - also edits and photographs the film; two of its stronger points, I felt.
But there are flaws.
For one, GRANNY OF THE DEAD is very rarely funny or scary. Arguably the most amusing scene concerns flatulence while one character is on the toilet. The rest of the film's humour comes mainly from one-liners, and the script simply isn't witty enough to raise genuine titters. There's no real sense of threat felt from a group of pensioners slavering around in zombie make-up either, and the violence is never too explicit (despite scenes of castration, cat-eating and so on), so the fear factor doesn't really come into play.
Also, I felt that the basic premise hardly warranted the film's 85-minute running time. This could've easily been half that length and quite possibly have been a more entertaining prospect as a result.
Still, GRANNY OF THE DEAD - it's not as daft and nowhere near as crap as that title suggests - held my attention for its duration. It looks cheap a lot of the time but the post-production colour correction helps it during the scenes it needs it the most: the zombie attacks.
Matchbox Films are releasing GRANNY OF THE DEAD onto UK DVD. We were sent an online screener for review purposes.
The screener link presented the film uncut and in 16x9 widescreen. As mentioned above, the film looks cheap and there are frequent intentional forays into out-of-focus photography, sometimes to obscure cheap FX work, other times who knows why. But the picture is sharp and clean for the most part, rendering its deliberately muted colour palette well.
English 2.0 audio came across as a problem-free proposition throughout.
I seriously doubt that cult status will await GRANNY OF THE DEAD. It's not as wacky as the title may suggest, nor as outlandishly gross as it probably needed to be to live up to such a promise. But it tries.
It's worth a watch, possibly.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Matchbox Films|