This starts off in fine fettle: the old West, and a finely chiselled antihero named Mortimer (David A Lockhart) engages in a shootout to the stirring sounds of Southern rock music. A pounding beat, razor-sharp editing and bloody squibs – all culminating in a good old-fashioned fist-fight. There’s literally nothing not to like.

It transpires that Mortimer is a bounty hunter. Correction, the BEST bounty hunter in the West. Despite his dry, almost girly voice (not too dissimilar to Jason Lee’s in "My Name Is Earl"). But rather than squander the fruits of his labour on fine wines and loose women, he prefers to save his booty and ride on his trusty steed into sundry sunsets.

Dreaming of finally settling down someday, he chooses to take on the biggest bounty of them all – Brother Wolf (Rick Mora). This "savage" is wanted alive, for the alleged rape of a white girl. And so, Mortimer sets off on the Indian’s trail.

He makes his way to the small village of Jamestown, a local mining community who are banking on the discovery of gold to provide them with a better tomorrow. All Mortimer wants is to rest for a while, before resuming his search for Brother Wolf.

And what better way to relax than to pay for some quality time with local whore Rhiannon (Camille Montgomery). Alas, it’s not kinky fun that he wants – rather, he wants to use her as bait for the randy native!

Meanwhile, the locals unearth something strange and glowing during their latest dig on the edge of town. Could it be the gold they’ve been hoping for? Or ... is it a meteorite whose oozing green puss is capable of mutating those who come into contact with it into zombies?

Go on, guess.

Sure enough, the locals gather round as the "rock" – clearly a meteorite, to anyone who’s seen CREEPSHOW – is split open by zealous villagers ... and each one is intoxicated by the resulting green gas that fills the air.

Mortimer is initially oblivious to this, as he’s busy in the hills tying his wench to the ground in the hope that Brother Wolf will come a-raping. When the Indian does turn up, Tomahawk in hand, he dives into a one-on-one duel with Mortimer. Their fun is curtailed when shots ring out nearby ... and a rival bounty hunter (Robert Amstler) turns up, also hunting Brother Wolf. Cue another shootout!

Back in the village, the locals are starting to turn. The first to get it are a couple of local hookers, in scenes that would’ve had the BBFC shitting in their shorts in the days when blood on boobs was still a big no-no.

As the zombie infestation grows, Mortimer realises he must work with Brother Wolf and the unexpectedly resourceful Rhiannon if they are to make it through the film alive. Cue more shootouts, and rock music.

The humour that runs throughout COWBOYS AND ZOMBIES is evident from the start but is much drier, much more reserved, than the obvious title would suggest. In truth, writer-director Rene Perez has fashioned an unexpectedly stylish and atmospheric film, complete with frequently impressive cinematography from Paul Nordin and a haunting original score courtesy of Perez and Mattia Borrani.

Performances are generally solid, even if some of the peripheral characters are somewhat overplayed – upsetting the tone and tipping it over into broader comedy at times. Whenever someone delivers lines in a particularly cheesy way – such as Mora, on frequent occasion, for example – you can’t help but suspect it’s how Perez would’ve wanted it.

Ed Martinez oversees the make-up FX and does a good job of furnishing the film with convincingly fucked-up zombies, as well as some choice moments of agreeable gore. Perez knows what makes good trash: a simple story, keen visuals, a stomping soundtrack and regular bouts of blood. Well, from around thirty minutes in. Oh, did I mention the exposed breasts too? There are quite a few of them on show during the unfolding of events ...

COWBOYS AND ZOMBIES looks really good on Left Films’ disc, in an above average 16x9 presentation. Colours are rich and warm, while blacks remain solid throughout and there is a depth to each composition that only comes with superior DVD transfers.

English 2.0 audio is fair throughout, though unremarkable.

A static main menu page does not include access to a scene-selection menu, as there isn’t one.

The disc from Left Films opens with trailers for the surprisingly stylish-looking ALIEN UNDEAD, UMBRAGE: THE FIRST VAMPIRE (with Doug Bradley!), and NINJAS VS VAMPIRES.

The only extras relating to the main feature are a photo gallery of 7 promotional stills, and a 45-second trailer.

Proving that you can’t judge a book by its cover (or, indeed, a film by its title and cover art), COWBOYS AND ZOMBIES is a highly polished slice of self-aware entertainment, and looks mighty fine on Left Films’ DVD.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Left Films
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review