Featured Creature: ZOMBIES
The wonders of 21st century Internet: nowadays, anyone can put up anything on Youtube, regardless of how good it actually is. A "director" can simply gather up a group of "actors", grab a camera, and film what they call a "movie". Upload it to Youtube, get a couple hits, and suddenly you can call yourself a "success". Is that really what this generation's idea of filmmaking has boiled down to?
The wonders of 21st century gaming: nowadays, anyone can just pick up a remote and be transported into a world where they can remain unchained for hours on end, a world where aliens, zombies, monsters, etc. are fodder to their mind. First Person Shooters let players grab a gun and take matters into their own hands; the problem being that almost every gamer is now permanently jaded toward the concept of death. Is that really how we want today’s generation to see things?
…Because that’s how Director’s Colin and Conner McGuire see things. That is NOT a bad thing here though: taking an obvious fondness for the violent and gore-heavy Left 4 Dead video games, they’ve taken their fandom to the next level, and created a short viral film that takes elements from the video games but is ultimately its own movie. Somehow it all works too; what could have been an amateurish, wannabe mess is instead an enjoyable and entertaining romp through a low-budget zombie apocalypse.
Marketed freely through Youtube, both Parts 1 & 2 of the short film can be seen on the site, but only Part 2 is being reviewed here. Why? Simply because Part 2 is a much stronger and competent piece of genre filmmaking; the directors have obviously grown creatively in the almost 8-month gap between 1 & 2. (Part 1 looks almost shoddy in comparison.) Part 2 can also be viewed as a standalone short; the set-up and introductions are all there, leaving no viewer confused if they do choose to skip straight into the second part.
Choosing empty, desolate, and often eerily haunting locations, Part 2’s plot revolves around a duo trying to find a safe-haven from the dead. They think they’ve found it in the form of a radio broadcast from a nearby military base—but are warned by other survivors not to go there. Pretty soon the zombies are descending, and the duo realize they’ve made a mistake getting too close to the now-overrun base. . .And yes, the blood does flow freely. While a lot of the blood is CGI, the zombie effects are for the most part practical, which always scores points in this reviewer’s book. The zombies look nice and nasty, and some of the original video game’s sound effects are blended in nicely into their screeching vocals. For example: mid-way through during a Hunter attack, (a Hunter is a “special”-type zombie, on that can leap like Tarzan but has all the ferociousness of a rabid monkey. They are lean, mean, and fast, and can tear apart a person in seconds) the Hunter’s roars are lifted directly from the video game’s sound mix, adding to the scene’s mood.
Overall, while the CGI can get a little shaky at times, the practical effects and sound design of the short feel professional. There’s a particularly notable scene during the short’s action-crazed end where the bass is pumped up and the video is slowed down as the lead survivor blasts away some zombies; slow-motion shells fly through the air as a rousing score beats to the on-screen mayhem.
But what of the acting? Low-budget films, (especially low-budget short horror films) aren’t exactly known for their actors…but lead actor Josh Pudleiner immediately stands out, commanding a screen presence and lending his vocals to the short’s narration. The problem is that he is the only stand-out—the weak script and dialogue does not really give any other actor a chance, good or bad. Pudleiner may be able to make his every line sound better then it really is, but it’s sadly a trait that the short’s other actors lack.
Going back to the script, it’s really where the short’s sole problems lie. Even for a short film the script moves way to fast, bouncing along from scene to scene with a seemingly blind disregard to any sort of characterization. As an audience we can immediately connect with Pudleiner only because we recognize that he’s the best of the bunch, but every other character isn’t given much else to do except either look scared or die. The first part of the film does try to give some characterization, but it is mostly in the form of clichéd dialogue, rendering it all moot. By the time the action starts, there’s little dialogue, and the viewer only cares about seeing more action, when they should be focusing on the character’s survival.
The short does show that the young directors (both are about to graduate from high school) know the technical and visual aspect of filmmaking, and know how to create a competent short film. Had the script and dialogue been revised before shooting, LEFT 4 DEAD may have been one of the horror shorts to see online…but for now it will have to settle for being simply entertaining—nothing more, nothing less. And sometimes, that’s good enough.