During a zombie apocalypse, a couple of filmmakers decide to make a zombie movie to follow up their "Zombie Night" movies - except this time, they're using real zombies. With an excited cast and crew on board, shooting begins and the idea of the perfect zombie movie is slowly rotting away along with the number of issues they encounter on the way.
It was a bit of a surprise to see a movie like "Reel Zombies" being released by Synapse, and hadn't it been I probably wouldn't have seen it at all. It's a movie that is actually better than its title, because frankly, who gets excited over a mockumentary zombie flick nowadays? Odds are it will be shit and just miss the mark completely. "Reel Zombies" caught my interest again by being more about making a movie during the zombie apocalypse than the actual zombies, and its mockumentary style being more a "behind the scenes" mocku-featurette than found footage stuff. A movie that initially was completely ignored by me, suddenly got my interest because of its distributor and those brief differences in plot. It's off to a promising start, as I love movies about creating art (filmmaking especially).
David J. Francis and Mike Masters are making a movie based on themselves. They have both made the "Zombie Night" movies ("Zombie Night" and "Awakening") which are part of the back story in the movie, and most things seem to check up pretty well - up until the zombie apocalypse thing. The filmmakers find themselves in the middle of a desperate world during a zombie apocalypse when they realize that the best, most foolproof, idea is to make a zombie movie featuring real zombies. The aim is to have it ready for when the world is getting back to normal and theaters are running again, and this will be the huge success because movies about real life catastrophes are popular. They begin the journey of making their new B-movie (or C, D, whatever makes it sound worse than a B-movie) and they are largely ignorant to the fact that even with using real zombies, their movie will still suck as much as their previous movies. Drama ensues.
One thing I always feel is important about zombie movies is that the zombies aren't the main plot. "Reel Zombies" does that right - it's about making a movie, and the zombies are just one of the several problems on set. Where some zombies will have people gang up on other groups of people, they begin to starve, etc., "Reel Zombies" main issues are exactly what you would expect on an indie movie set. This is something that kept me interested in the movie, even though it's extremely cliché in how it portrays the filmmakers. It's the typical attitudes - a director who thinks he is making a masterpiece, actors who just do it because they need a job, PA's and similar hate their jobs. It's pretty tiring when most of the jokes are either based on that or that they're trying to film a scene with a real zombie. It has funny moments, its atmosphere is definitely fun above all else, which makes it a movie to just relax with, but it's not a movie with lasting power among other zombie comedies (or horror comedies overall).
I have to compliment them for really digging through the filmmaking process here though, as they managed to get the production to feel as if it was actually happening (unlike something like "Inside the Whore"). Despite the over-the-top characters, you believe they are trying to shoot a movie - not just that it's a movie about making a movie. That said, it's too focused on comedy to ever win you over with the "real zombies", as there are scenes where even the real ones crack a smile before it cuts - and that's risky when you need to separate "real" zombies with "fake" zombies within the movie. The line is often blurred and you simply don't care about the zombies, only about them making a movie.
I sort of like "Reel Zombies", but I also kinda don't. As a reviewer, that's really annoying. I'm programmed to give straight opinions, but there are plenty of movies that split your opinion. I enjoyed watching "Reel Zombies" as it is a pretty thorough look at independent filmmaking, yet it falls into a ton of clichés that other movies have already dug into. This ties straight into the comedy as well, since it uses the comedy to show the absurd process of making a movie. So for a comedy mockumentary about making a movie, it's not left with a whole lot we haven't seen before. If you expect this, by all means you should pick it up. It's certainly not a terrible movie, you will probably have a fun time either way, but it suffers from not having its own angle on independent filmmaking.