Running the kind of site I do here, it’s only natural that certain folks I’ve gotten to “know” vicariously via the internet would be putting a bug in my ear for some time now to check out 2012’s Kickstarter-funded Osombie — I mean, a movie about Osama Bin Laden coming back from the dead and leading an army of zombie terrorists? That’s got “trash film” written all over it, right?
I was certainly intrigued enough, especially when I heard how cut-rate the CGI effects were, how wooden the acting was, how inauthentic the supposed “Afghan” shooting locales were, and how rancid the film’s dialogue was — charges which, I’m happy to report, are all true. Still, for one reason or another (or maybe I was just being petulant because the filmmakers never sent me a free screener copy), I never got around to it. But when I noticed last night that it was leaving the Netflix instant streaming lineup as of March 31st (fair warning for those of you who fast-forward to the end of reviews to check out the DVD and Blu-Ray technical specs, there won’t be any provided here because I can’t fairly comment on them), I decided to finally give it a go.
What I found was pretty much in line with what I expected — but also something else entirely, and I think that the B-movie “community” — to the extent that there even is such a thing — had been suckered here a bit. Sit back and I’ll lay out the details as to why.
The plot, for starters, is about as absurd as one can imagine — former New York fireman-turned-conspiracy-theorist heads to Afghanistan to prove not only that Osama Bin Laden is still alive, but to kill the guy himself, given that he lost his whole company in the Twin Towers while he stayed home sick that day. Now, I know that commercial flights from JFK or LaGuardia to Kabul are, as of this writing, still a non-existent thing, but he does make it across the Afghan border, somehow — as does his sister, who’s trying to talk him out of his( in the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi) “damn fool crusade,” a few weeks later. So I guess it’s not that tough a place to get to after all.
Along the way they each separately meet up with members of the exact same international team of coalition forces, who are happy enough to enlist a couple of civilians, on the spot, to fight alongside them — but then they don’t seem to care much about following established battlefield protocols in general given that one of the female members carries a fucking samurai sword around with her and another, the film’s ostensible “star” (played by low-level supposed heart-throb Corey Sevier — although he’s not anything like the central character here, so I guess it’s more accurate to just say that he gets top billing) seems to be allergic to wearing a shirt. Maybe the military’s just running a really loose ship over there, who knows.
That’s not all they run into, though — truth is Bin Laden really is still alive. Or, more precisely, he’s not. He’s, as you’ve no doubt pieced together by now, a zombie. It turns out that the government was trying to develop a Captain America-style super-soldier serum but it went horribly wrong (a bit of back-story not entirely dissimilar to the origin of Cap’s enemy Nuke), kills whoever takes it, then brings ’em back from the dead. Al Qaeda apparently got ahold of a sizable stash of this stuff, and Bin Laden took it just before he was captured by Seal Team Six, woke up in the C-130 they were transporting his supposed corpse in , killed everyone on board, crashed the plane, and landed in the ocean (giving rise to the first of many rancid blue-screen shots in the film as his shambling form emerges from the water). After that he got the old gang back together, shot ’em all up with the rest of the zombie juice, and now they’re back on the front lines of the “war on terrorism” ( I guess now we know why it won’t end in our lifetime).
Apparently these zombies play by the “Romero Rules” of needing to be decapitated or shot in the head to be killed (for good) and transmitting their infection via biting, so cue plenty of horseshit CGI effects in a few lackadaiscal battles here and there inevitably leading up to the “big moment” when our one-time fireman does, in fact, get to kill the world’s formerly-most-wanted terrorist himself and our “heroes” (a surprisingly large number of them, in fact, for a zombie flick) live happily ever after.
If it all sounds action-packed, I assure you it’s not. This is an incredibly talky film with the characters divulging way more about their personal lives than anybody’s going to give a shit about — and that’s why I first started smelling a rat. They blather a lot, sure — but they never swear, even in the midst of this hyper-macho environment. And a lot of what they talk about seems tailor-made to appeal to those with a very specific, and frankly juvenile, worldview. Consider : one of our cast is in no rush to get home because he got divorced. He married his childhood sweetheart, the girl he’s loved his whole life, and their relationship went south when she started seeing a shrink, who charmed his way into her pants within just a few months. Hmmmm — how often does this really happen? Answer : pretty much never, but there’s a certain segment of the population who reflexively view the husband as the injured party in every divorce, and distrust psychiatry in as equally knee-jerk a fashion.
You know who I mean : the people who think praying and going to church and reading the Bible together will keep a couple happy forever. The folks who have built an entire “alternative media” of cheaply-made movies, “soft rock” music, and home-schooling textbooks to prevent their offspring from being exposed to the real world. I’m talking, of course, about evangelicals.
Also worth noting in addition to the “no cursing” rule in effect is the fact that apart from Sevier, who’s always eager to peel off his shirt at the drop of a — errr— hat, is the fact that there’s no actual nudity here, despite the film having two reasonably attractive female cast members (one of whom, the civilian sister — played by Eve Mauro — even demonstrates a modicum of acting ability). How many actual horror flicks, especially low-budget ones, can you say that about?
The most telling sign that there’s a “home team” that Osombie is playing for, though, is also the most repugnant — sure, a couple of the “good guys” die when they’re bitten by zombie terrorists, but director John Lyde always cuts away at the moment of their actual demise, while every single Muslim who gets killed gets the “full treatment” in all its cheap CGI gory “glory.”
Clearly, then, the slaughter here is an entirely one-sided affair — but so are the film’s conspiratorial politics. A quick Google search for “Bin Laden is alive” conspiracies reveals that there’s no shortage of that viewpoint to be found out there (and who knows, I’m as conspiratorially-inclined as the next guy, maybe there’s something to it), but every single site I found promulgating that idea, without exception, also takes the view that 9/11 itself was an “inside job” and that the whole “War On Terrorism” has been what they call a “false flag” operation from the get-go. Give them points then, at least, for consistency. —but you can’t say the same for Lyde and screenwriter Kurt Hale. In their view, 9/11 went down exactly as it was reported, the Bush administration told us the truth, and it’s only that dastardly Obama fella who’s lying because Bin Laden really isn’t dead. Throw in one quick, cheap Obama joke made by one of the cast — which is frankly pretty innocuous on its face and probably far less extreme than anything you’re likely to hear from your crazy conservative uncle at the next family get-together, but stands out by dint of its being the only openly political wisecrack in a movie featuring a character who tells one sorry (and entirely G-rated) riddle after another — and the politics of this crowd-funded endeavor, as well as who was in that “crowd,” suddenly becomes crystal clear.
All in all, by the time the end credits for Osombie rolled around and I saw that one of the film’s executive producers was a reverend, I was hardly surprised. And a post-viewing look at IMDB that showing that both Lyde and Hale have written and directed a fair number of Christian and “inspirational” movies (among other marginal TV and film credits) surprised me even less. This may not advertise itself as a religious production, and nobody in the movie does anything as obvious as take a break from the action to pray or read the Bible (they’re too busy droning on about their lives back home, their hopes, their dreams, and all kinds of other shit that goes in one ear and out the other), but such a blatant approach isn’t really necessary to convince the aware viewer that this a piece of cultural propaganda with a very definite agenda that’s been sold to the B-movie movie crowd rather than the Christian crowd simply because, I’m guessing, there’s probably more money to be made there and, who knows, maybe there are even a few souls to “save.”
Not that I have anything against church-funded projects, mind you — we wouldn’t have Plan 9 From Outer Space without them — but this kind of duplicitous marketing rubs me the wrong way. If you’re so proud of your evangelical faith, don’t hide it. Be honest and upfront in your beliefs, otherwise you’re no better than those tricky Islamic fundamentalists who supposedly want to brainwash all our youth and then, I dunno, kill ’em all in spectacular acts of mass terrorism. Or something like that — there have been so many entirely imaginary “Muslim plots against America” that they all sort of blend together at this point.
None of which is to say that fans of bad — or trashy, or whatever — movies won’t find plenty to like about Osombie. It’s loaded with more rank incompetence than most films and has kind of a “Birdemic meets the war on terrorism” vibe that kinda works in its favor. It’s outrageous, stupid, boring, incomprehensible, and features a good number of “what the fuck, did I really just see that?” moments. In short, all the shit we like around these parts.
But it’s also a modern-day Christian “scare” flick that reinforces some pretty ugly, and blatantly false, cultural stereotypes, not the least of which being that Muslims are mindless, violent, cannibalistic savages who blindly and reflexively hate all Westerners — even, apparently, after they’re dead. And you’d have to be a real zombie to believe that crap.