Zombie movies need a headshot. It feels like there is a new one released every other day. There is a downside to the popularity of The Walking Dead. The zombie movie probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
On Saturday night (October 27th) the Syfy Channel offers Rise of the Zombies, an Asylum production that actually isn’t bad but at the same time brings nothing new to the table. It opens in the middle of people being attacked by zombies in San Francisco. It appears the city has been overrun. The small group of survivors is attempting to make it to Alcatraz, but only a pregnant woman manages to escape the marauding undead.
Meanwhile, another small group of survivors is holed up in the famous prison. Unfortunately for them these zombies can swim, and before long they are on shore and attacking the prison. The group fights them off as best they can and find a place to plot their next move. Apparently, some doctor has developed a cure at a nearby university. The group decides to hop in a raft and head to the university. It might be their last hope.
There really isn’t that much more to it. The survivors attempt to stay that way as they make their way to the doctor with the cure. One by one the group gets smaller as zombies continuously attack. It is all incredibly routine.
That being said, Rise of the Zombies is better than you might expect. The production values are surprisingly good. They actually did film some of it in San Francisco (as opposed to Vancouver) and it makes a difference. Also, the cast is solid and full of recognizable faces including Danny Trejo, Mariel Hemingway, Levar Burton, French Stewart, and Ethan Suplee.
Every once in a while it throws in something crazy out of left field, which really livens things up from time to time. The highlight might be an encounter with the pregnant woman on the Golden Gate Bridge. She gets bitten but one character decides to perform an emergency C-section. The result is nuts and unexpected. The movie does not skimp on the gore either, and the practical effects are good.
Sadly the zombie attacks become redundant in a hurry. The characters have guns with unlimited bullets and director Nick Lyon (Species: The Awaking, Zombie Apocalypse) goes a little overboard with slow-motion. The zombies themselves look like they do in every other zombie movie made in the last 10-15 years. There are also too many moments of awkward sentimentality, where characters discuss faith and friendship and what the world has become. A those times we get dangerously close to Lifetime territory.
All in all Rise of the Zombies is a perfectly serviceable Saturday night Syfy movie. That might be damning with faint praise, and this viewer still hopes to avoid all zombie movies for the near future, but if you’re a big fan of the genre you should give it a shot.