It must be a difficult task to create an original and fresh take on the zombie film. We have seen various different attempts on the genre that have worked, Simon Pegg’s Shaun Of The Dead (2004), or even the low budget Colin (2008) spring to mind, but more often than not they all tread the same stale water, great for Zombie fans, but film buffs can easily find them tiresome. But there’s currently a Kiwi produced ‘horredy’ hurtling through the festival circuits that has easily managed to maintain its own original take while still remaining true to the specifics of the zombie genre, and on behalf of the Devon and Cornwall Film site, I was fortunate enough to be offered an exclusive preview screening.
I Survived A Zombie Holocaust is a comedy horror written and directed by Guy Pigden, one half of the comedy pairing of Pigville Productions. The other half, Harley Neville, can be found in the lead role as the films unlikely and somewhat pathetic protagonist Wesley, a runner fresh out of film school who arrives late for his first day on the set of a zombie horror movie.
It’s this zombie film within a zombie film that is the standout twist on the genre and one that I’m sure many screenwriters will kick themselves for not having come up with first. Newcomer Pigden’s screenplay is a great achievement, treating us to great comedy characters, countless comedy moments and a superbly-crafted story that easily sustains its durability longer than perhaps the concept suggests.
Before viewing, I was sure that I was going to use Shaun of The Dead as some kind of zombie comedy datum point to hold the film against, but I soon found myself likening ISAZH to the early works of New Zealand’s own Peter Jackson, films such as Brain Dead and Bad Taste, which also made the most of the limited budget while drenched in a natural New Zealand flare of humour. Being a film set within a film also gives Pigden a terrific opportunity to deconstruct and pick apart the genre and the industry in much the same way that Wes Craven had with Scream, and as result there are many references and nods to the genre for horror fans to pick out.
Neville’s Wesley is a superb comedy creation and a loveable yet spineless nerd with an awkward naivety that makes a great hero for the film, who despite his relentless attempts to establish himself as an upcoming ‘screenwriter’, with his Magnum Opus firmly in hand (yet another Zombie screenplay), he is forever being shot down in flames by his fellow crew members.
The other characters found within the film pose more as a satirical magnifying glass into film industry itself, the self-obsessed action hero film star, the prima donna starlet, the angry director, the over enthusiastic method actor and the disinterested love interest all so well defined and deviously lampooned that they never fail to have us in hysterics throughout. All actors seemed to be enjoying themselves and for relative unknowns superbly hold their own in such a large production. If you look closely, Pigden himself can also be seen as one crew member and I’m pretty certain it’s his zombie self that meets a messy demise.
Pigden’s direction and organisation of what is a substantially large scale for an amateur film, seems so finely tuned and artfully handled that you’d never have guessed that this was his debut.
His mixing of horror, comedy and romance work well together and with none unbalancing or detracting from the others, and the film always manages to keep its unique feel throughout, and throws in a plethora of playfully manipulated techniques of sound and vision that superbly create stand out moments of both comedy and horror, easily contending with many great scenes from previous films from both genres. And lest we forget the gore and effects featured throughout, a superb blend of live action props and subtle CGI, thankfully never overused, but none the less innovative and gruesome.
Pigville are currently enjoying taking this film to various festivals, such as London’s Film4 Frightfest, LA’s Screamfest, A Night Of Horror Festival in Sydney Australia, the Festival De Cine de Terror de Molins de Rei in Barcelona, as well as the forthcoming Day Of The Undead Festival in Leicester this coming weekend, (November 15).