Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Zombie Nation | Black Dahlia

By Steve Anderson
Jan 1st, 2007

Zombie Nation
*
DVD
Directed by Ulli Lommel
Written by Ulli Lommel
Starring Gunter Ziegler, Brandon Dean, Axel Montgomery, Phil Lander
Produced by Nola Roeper, Ulli Lommel
R
82 mins
2006

Ulli Lommel makes a zombie film this time around, and manages to do more damage to the genre than anyone before him. And what Ulli's dug up this time involves a serial killing cop who's got a thing for the young ladies. It's especially useful that his old army buddies down at the precinct are always so willing to cover for him! Just as our killer cop thinks he's in serial killer heaven, he lands what will prove to be his last victim.

You may be wondering--I know I was--what if anything this has to do with zombies. After all, in a movie called "Zombie Nation", with what is clearly a zombie on the cover, you're expecting a whole monster assload of walking dead. But since Ulli Lommel, who is rapidly becoming direct-to-video's biggest disappointment (for reference, go get a copy of "Black Dahlia", or one of 2006's contenders for "Biggest Lack of Taste", "The BTK Killer"), can't actually seem to make anything make much sense, there will be an astonishing lack of zombies in the Zombie Nation. In fact, there will be all of a half dozen, and it's going to take over half of the movie to even see one.

First, wonder of wonders, the title crawl. Most times, you expect a quick shot of the title, or maybe a little animation to go with it. Maybe the letters are built out of slashes just for jollies, okay. But in this case, the letters are actually so big, they won't fit on one screen. Rather, we get a series of four, and if we took the title crawl literally, the movie's real title is "Ulli Lommel's Zom Bie Na Tion."

Being that it's an Ulli Lommel movie, we're not going to get through this miserable wreckage without torture aplenty. I don't know what kind of issues this man has, but his body of work is so utterly laden with pointless torture sequences. It's almost painful to watch this stuff. Oh, and speaking of painful--for some reason, Ulli himself is actually in this movie, playing the role of "Dr. Melnitz". He almost manages to say absolutely nothing but the same line, "Is it safe?", for his entire appearance. He does manage to break out, "Childhood memories" and "Paranoiac infantilism. We will meet twice a week." to mix it up a bit, but still, it's pretty sad.

The ending is a mishmash of speedy torture, a last-minute plot element that's never resolved and actually manages to leave the door open for a sequel to this godawful waste of time.

The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, a commentary track, closed captioning, and trailers for "Zombie Nation", "The Descent", "House of Blood", "Dark Harvest 3: Scarecrow", "A Dead Calling", and "The Kumite".

All in all, Ulli Lommel, you're on notice--another movie like this tripe and you're going to surpass Joe Castro on my list of crimes against filmgoers.

Black Dahlia
zero stars
DVD
Directed by Ulli Lommel
Written by Ulli Lommel
Starring Elissa Dowling, Sutton Christopher, Christian Behm, Jack Quinn
Produced by Jeff Frentzen
NR
81 mins
2006

Ulli Lommel follows up the train wreck that was "The Boogeyman" with a shoddy, second-rate trashfest in "Black Dahlia". So what we have here plotwise is a copycat version of the Black Dahlia killings from 1947. So for those of you who thought this was just a ripoff of the Black Dahlia movie already in theatres, you're only mostly wrong. No, this is a copycat version. Which makes it different. Somehow. How, I'm not sure. And then, for some baffling reason, Lommel decides to take the first ten seconds to quote the Geneva Convention, putting up a big text placard that reads: "Prisoners of War and Persons not taking part in Hostilities shall in all Circumstances be treated humanely. To this End, all Acts of cruel Treatment and Torture shall be prohibited." This has, of course, only a very little to do with the movie itself, being that there will be--as if we expected any different--scenes of cruelty and torture played out here. So either Lommel is being ironic or a total hypocrite, I can't tell which. Maybe it's some kind of anti-Bush protest? Who can tell? Okay...right off, and I mean like not even ten minutes in, Lommel's script is already going to subject us to a cripplingly high amount of incongruity. Let me lay it out for you...some chick's scrawling in a big book with a pentagram and a big 666 on the cover--cheesy enough for you? Sure is!--about how the Black Dahlia was born in 1924, and died on the 15th, and that makes three sixes. First off, that's actually TWO. I guess they're counting the third as the "number of imperfection", if you buy the horrific chicken scrawl she's got on the page. Second, how badly do you have to be reaching to get one six from the year and one from the day? Pretty badly, I'd say! Okay, so I'm overanalyzing. But this is a good example of the kind of cheap, mindless crap we're going to be subjected to in this truly godawful performance. The plot isn't the only place the cheese is showing, either. I swear, I've seen better fake bodies on "Mythbusters", and that's saying something. And yet, it's somehow fitting. Given the mess that Lommel made out of "Boogeyman", it's not surprising that he managed to turn "Black Dahlia" into a sloppy nonsensical mess either. Worse yet, they're going to, somehow, despite all logic and seeming possibility, give away their best plot twist a half hour into the movie. Then, by the time you're about two thirds through the movie, you begin to realize that it's all looking a little familiar. You will not be experiencing deja vu; rather, you will be simply watching the same series of events happen over and over again only to a different person each time. "Black Dahlia" should actually only be about twenty minutes long, but to pad the run time, they've reshot the same sequence over and over again. The ending is the only high point of this piece of sludge, because we can finally stop watching. I'd point out all the logical inconsistencies it features, but I think you've figured out by now how I feel about this tripe. More evidence at this point would really be rather redundant. The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, commentary track, and trailers for "Black Dahlia", "House of Blood", "Blackwater Valley Exorcism", "An American Haunting", "Hard Candy", "Are You Scared?", "Dark Fields", and "The Feeding".

All in all, why anyone would watch this piece of trash is utterly beyond me. It's repetitive, it's vile, it's disgusting, it's gore-for-gore's-sake at its most thoroughly repugnant.

But then, if you're here reading this, at least you won't be watching it.

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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