How can a bunch of well-known and well-loved movie stars make a zombie movie that’s entirely forgettable? Seriously, truly forgettable? That’s exactly what happened with Zombie Night.
We here at Zombie World International Headquarters and Bunker Central had thought that, between all of us, we had seen all the zombie movies. At least all the English-language ones, and we’re working on our Korean. But somehow or other, this one slipped past us all… until now. And it carries a mystery of its own.
Zombie Night (2013) features a fistful of mid-level movie royalty. You’ve got Anthony Michael Hall of Dead Zone and Breakfast Club and Weird Science and so much more. You’ve got Splash’s Darryl Hannah and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’s Alan Ruck and no less a luminary than Mrs. Partridge herself – yeah, Marian the friggin’ Librarian, Shirley Jones from The Music Man. And yes, they’re all a little past their sell-by date, but these are actors, damn it, good ones, and they all do their best to see this sad, silly little knock-off… though of course, they fail miserably.
Maybe the fault lies with Richard Schenckman, the screenwriter, ‘hot’ off his 2011 ‘triumph’ of Abraham Lincoln, vs Zombies (missed that one too, did you?). The story he coughs up here is a confused and confusing clutch of B-minus zombie tropes, studded with cliched – and surprisingly sparse – dialogue (mostly it’s just groaning and screaming) that gives this estimable cast absolutely nothing to work with. It’s basically just the (excuse the pun) lifeless story of Hall’s family trying to survive the sudden outbreak of your classic slow Romeros, who we are told conveniently halfway through seems to revert to normal deadness during daylight. So just survive ‘til down, they say, even if that means putting a machete in Mom, who ha the bad taste to expire in the middle of the zompocalypse. Suffice to say, you’ve seen it all before, done much better, and you could not even force yourself to give a rat’s ass about any of the people. Hell, you’d strain a vein trying to remember the name of any character even while the credits were still running. And the special effects and kills? More of the same. Or lack thereof.
Maybe the director, John Gulager, is to blame. The son of the late and much-respected character actor Clu Gulager, a welcome fixture in film and television in the 60s and 70s, Gulager got a small bit of fame himself and a big break as the winner of Season 2 of Project Greenlight, the twice-revived reality-show ‘experiment’ about finding and making a movie that was started by (and later abandoned by) Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. The result was the low-budget but fun little horror flick, Feast – a clever-enough take on the “strangers trapped in a bar and fighting off a monster” bit. And even though he wrote and directed two increasingly awful sequels, and sometime later the … legendary? .. .Piranha 3DD, vhttps://amzn.to/3sJlZ5R things have never really taken off for John. He did direct the recent Children of the Corn knock-off, Runaway, a few years back, but by and large he’s working mostly as a cinematographer now.
There has to be a story behind this baffling misfire. How could you lure decent actors like Hall and Hannah et al. into a project like this and produce something so utterly boring that it isn’t good enough to remember at all – not even bad enough to make it onto any “Worst of” list. One reviewer on Amazon demanded a refund of the ninety minutes of life he wasted on this one, and he isn’t far wrong.
Zombie Night is available on Amazon, Peacock, Tubi, Pluto, and more… but truly, you’d be better off watching any, anything else, good or bad. Or even just taking a nap. If you want a short sample – about all it’s worth – here’s the trailer from ten years ago when it premiered on SyFy: