One of the more interesting-sounding flicks I stumbled across in the “horror and suspense” section on Hulu right now, at least by my admittedly off-kilter standards, was the ultra-low-budget 2010 Canadian production Dead Genesis, a Romero-esque (minus most of the Master’s skill) socio-/politically- conscious zombie flick shot for 15,000 of those rather funny-looking dollars they use north of the border in and around Barrie, Ontario that admittedly was pre-destined to reek of amateurism but nevertheless seemed to promise more by way of thematic ambition than most essentially homemade numbers of this sort typically have the stones to even attempt, much less actively offer. I was also reliably informed by a handful of sources I trust that the opening scene was a real motherfucker, so what the heck — earlier today I decided to give it a shot.
The first thing worth mentioning, I suppose, is that, yeah — that opener turned out to be every bit as brutal as I’d been told/warned, and if you have either a weak stomach, high moral standards, or both, it’s gonna turn you right off the film immediately. I won’t say much other “child eaten alive,” but really — what more needs to be said? And while things surely do “tone down” after that, twisted bastards will still be rewarded as events progress by things like a chained and bound zombie sex slave and plenty of ultra-gory practical effects work that aims to deliver a lot more shock value than it should probably be able to with resources this limited, and generally delivers. A genuine frisson of outright depravity imbues the proceedings from start to finish here, and while a lot of it is nausea-inducing (or maybe that’s just the ultra-shaky camera work?), writer/director Reese Eveneshen is to be commended for serving up a sub-micro-budget “mockumentary” (though I should stress this is in no way a “found footage” film) wherein you truly never know what’s going to happen next because he’s not afraid to show that he’s willing to “go there” — and well beyond — right from jump.
So that’s the good (relatively speaking) stuff out of the way, and now comes the not-so-fun part — zeroing in on Dead Genesis‘ many painfully obvious problems. Our plot here is pleasingly simple enough, focusing on ambitious young documentarian Jillian Hurst (played by Emily Alatalo) as she “embeds” herself with a self-appointed crew of zombie-hunters called “The Deadheads” as they seek to rid the land of legions of the undead as part of the government-initiated, citizen-centric “War on the Dead.” Her initial goal is to make a blatantly pro-war propaganda flick, but the longer she’s stuck “in the shit,” the more she comes to doubt both the ragtag group’s methods, and the whole impetus behind the war itself. Parallels to the Iraq war, as well as to the broader “War on Terrorism” in general, are frustratingly lacking in subtlety, and while Alatalo and co-stars like Colin Paradine, Lionel Boodlal, Erin Stuart, and Tom Parkinson do decent enough work with the material they’re given, a lot of the dialogue is downright cringeworthy, and the film’s poorly-synched sound becomes really distracting really fast. I’m all for using the zombie genre as allegory for so-called “real world” issues, but when said allegory subsumes the actual plot itself you’ve got a bit of a problem on your hands, and when you marry that heavy-handedness with severe technical ineptitude, you end up with a flick that becomes damn frustrating to watch after awhile, even if it’s all underpinned by a generous serving of “anything can happen at any moment here” taboo excitement.
Still, I’m not prepared to say that Dead Genesis is a film you should take a pass on. It very well could be, depending on how easily offended you are, but if you’re the kind of person who gets a charge out of the flat-out amorality of flicks like Cannibal Holocaust or Emanuelle In America, you’ll find plenty to — dare I even say it — like here. The moralizing will work your nerves in relatively short order, it’s true, and it’s more than a touch ironic for a film with zero morals of its own to assume such a high-and-mighty tone, but for my part I found that dichotomy a bit interesting, even if it was far from intentional. Overall, then, what Eveneshen has crafted here is an intriguingly tone-deaf and hypocritical-on-its-face movie that is as far from good as it is from dull. Whatever audience it’s going for is a small one to be sure, and I’d be lying if I said that I knew for certain if I was even part of it, but I don’t regret watching it — numerous and ugly warts and all — and may even give it another go at some point down the road just to get a better handle on what the hell it’s all about and what it’s trying to achieve.