The setting is the sleepy American coastal town of Port Gamble. Imagine Potters Bluff from DEAD AND BURIED-meets-the neighbourhood from "Desperate Housewives".

A blind local is the first to discover that all is not well here when he stumbles upon a body that has been washed onto the shore. Moving in for a closer inspection, the old guy makes the fatal discovery that the body is in fact a zombie.

Oblivious to this, or the odd undead somnambulist lumbering in their midst, we hone in on a disparate group of locals going about their respective businesses in the usual manner.

Frida (Janette Armand) is a cool chick who is forever being mistaken for an Iraqi, on account of her father's Iranian heritage. She's seeing wannabe rock star Derek (Ryan Barret), who's just been sacked as a dishwasher from Frida's dad's cafe.

Brian (Andrew Hyde), meanwhile, is a likeable nerd with his own designs on Frida - much to the chagrin of his fiercely patriotic father Joe (Russell Hodgkinson).

Then we have Tom (Doug Fahl), who has returned to the island with his boyfriend Lance (Cooper Hopkins) to visit the house Tom grew up in and announce his sexuality to his unsuspecting mother.

Throw in a couple of smarmy political campaigners, a fervent preacher and some truly goofy extras, and it soon becomes apparent that Port Gamble is anything but your average town. Small surprise, then, that the occasional zombie amongst the milieu should go by unnoticed.

But when one of the living dead takes a huge bite out of one of the above characters, the shit hits the fan as the locals finally realise the threat before them and pandemonium sets in. Can these opposing characters put their differences to one side and work together? Can they make it through a night of terror at the hands of the running, leaping, hungry undead?

For the first act at least, my initial thought while watching this was how obtuse the modern zombie genre has become. It all starts off pretty dumb (it doesn't get much smarter) with lame gags and overly expressive performances that run the risk of plunging the film into the depths of farce.

But luckily a lack of fart gags and braindead bimbos prevent this from reaching the puerile lows of Troma. The humour is tempered a little when the zombie attacks come - they're very gory, and some are even quite tense - and overall the impression I came away with was that of a more reserved, less cartoonish variation on the early films of Peter Jackson.

FX are cheap but fun. The seaside setting is nice and John Guleserian's cinematography is generally appetising. Kevin Hamedani's direction is sharp and brisk, while the script that he co-wrote with Ramon Isao teeters on the verge of becoming too daft.

Small political nods are evident (the American fear of Easterners, represented by Joe's racism and the general misunderstanding of Frida's culture; the timely cause of the zombie outbreak) but they never interfere with the general air of well-humoured flesh-eating entertainment.

While it's not SHAUN OF THE DEAD - it never approaches that level of wit or sophistication - nor is ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION a lame turd such as ZOMBEAK!. What it is, is unpretentious fun executed on a meagre budget and iced with buckets of enthusiastic gore as its finishing touch.

Presented here in an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer, ZOMBIES looks fine. The clean presentation boasts sharp images and accurate-looking, if sedate, colours.

English audio is provided in 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Both are solid propositions.

The disc opens with a static main menu page. From there a static scene-selection menu allows access to the film via 12 chapters.

The only extras on Optimum's DVD are an original trailer and a Making Of featurette. The latter offers some keen behind-the-scenes footage but, at only 5 minutes in length, it's far too short to provide any real insight.

ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION starts off shakily but the characters become more agreeable as the competently staged zombie action heats up. The jokes are average and the budget is low. But the gore is plentiful while never being nasty, and the cast are easy to warm to. It's a fun film and the disc, while not great, is adequate.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Optimum Home Entertainment
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review