A pre-credits prologue clues in on the 1913 tragedy that is going to haunt present-day occupants of Addytown, Pennsylvania: immigrant children are forced to work down a dangerous mine by the local mogul Mr Carlton.

Unfortunately this prologue ends with the children - and in particular one called Mary (Helia Grekova) being stuck in the mine when, despite the cries of his workforce, Carlton orders the dynamite in the mine to be detonated

Once the eerie titles are done with, we jump to present day and meet widow Karen (Lori Heuring) and her two daughters - petulant teenager Sarah (Scout Taylor-Compton) and inquisitive youngster Emma (Chloe Moretz). They're moving to the small village of Carlton to renovate the late husband's parent's home, and stop off at nearby Addytown for provisions.

Immediately things look grim when Sarah focuses on the convenience store's notice-board, observing the alarming number of "missing persons" in the area. Things look bleaker still when the store-owner looks glum upon learning where they're headed, and tells them he refuses to make deliveries to Carlton.

But, in true horror movie fashion, the girls get back in their car and head to their new home anyway. Even the blood smeared on their new home's front door doesn't stop them from going in and having a rake around.

But, having had a look around the house and discovered how grubby and run-down it is (not to mention, there's a spooky cellar, giant cobwebs everywhere, faulty lighting, no phone line and no signal on their mobile telephones, and newspaper cuttings that they find telling of a mine tragedy decades ago wherein local children were killed, but no-one was ever held accountable ), the threesome share tears together and wonder how long it would take to sell the place.

The following morning, handyman Harold (Geoffrey Lewis) is sent by the estate agent to do a few jobs for Karen, and he clues her in a little more about the history of the town and the terrible tragedy that struck at the mine. Harold also tells Karen how everyone has moved away from the area lately, and that only her, Carlton's only living relative and weird old Aaron Hanks (Ben Cross) remain there.

And yet, still she stays put.

Even when she sends Sarah to the Addytown store for groceries, and Sarah meets some teenagers who befriend her before warning her away from her new house up in the hills "with the zombies". Even when Emma disappears into the woods on a foggy afternoon, following the calls of her "imaginary" friend Mary, and Karen finds her next to the opening of the disused mine. Even when Aaron confesses to Karen that he smeared blood on her front door to protect her from the things in the night. Yes, even when Harold meets a sticky end on his way home one evening. The family stays put.

So, with that kind of stupidity to contend with, it's hard to feel sympathy towards Sarah, Emma and Karen. They cry, they whimper, they walk around dark rooms slowly but they never just up and leave.

Looking at the alternative titles this film has been known under (both better and more appropriate to the storyline, incidentally), it shouldn't be difficult to see where this is all leading.

But if the title ZOMBIES has led you into expecting some serious flesh-tearing and cannibalism, then don't. These vengeful returners from the grave are quiet, slow and gather round their victims in groups before stoving their heads in with shovels etc. It's very reminiscent in places of DEAD AND BURIED - both in the deliberately muted colour schemes and the very unzombie-like appearance and behaviour of the undead.

Performances are passable, and as ever it's nice to see veterans Lewis and Cross on the screen. But the plot is wholly conventional and offers no surprises whatsoever.

In the end, what we have is a moderately engaging ghost story that's been seen and done umpteen times before. It's by-the-book stuff, with some admittedly nicely shot woodland scenes and a few moments of genuine atmosphere to speak of.

But you'll forget it within minutes of watching it.

The film is presented uncut in it's original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for 16x9 TV sets.

Images are predictably strong, with nice contrast balance and well-rendered blacks. Colours are vivid and sharp, and there's plenty of detail evident with a minimum of grain.

The English 2.0 audio track is a loud, clear and hiss-free affair throughout. English subtitles are easy-to-read and free from typos.

An animated main menu gives way to a static scene-selection menu, allowing access to the main feature via 12 chapters.

The main extra on the disc is a highly watchable 17-minute Making Of featurette including cast and crew interviews that are separated slickly by clips from the completed film.

The only other "extras" to speak of on the disc are trailers for EDEN LOG, TEETH and SKINWALKERS.

All in all then, ZOMBIES is perhaps going to disappoint those expecting a Romero-style bloodbath that's heavy on the flesh-eating and head gunshot wounds. For others, who like their horror to emphasise the atmosphere rather than the gore, they may well find something to savour here. It's unfortunate though that it's impossible to shake the overwhelming sense of familiarity from your brain while watching ZOMBIES

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Momentum Pictures
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review