Saturday, 29 September 2012

Osombie (2012)

With so many zombie films hitting screens over the last few years, to stand out from the crowd nowadays, you really need a gimmick. Rushed into production to cash in on the death of Osama Bin Laden at the hands of the US Military, Osombie has an intriguingly offbeat and poor taste premise, but the script, the actors and the special effects are not up to fleshing this out into an entertaining full length feature, and the end result is surprisingly boring.

The action kicks off with US Special Forces storming Bin Laden's secret hideout in Pakistan to capture or kill him, and coming up against a horde of walking corpses, a result of Bin Laden’s experiments with weird chemicals that bring the deceased back to life. He is shot dead, but one of the troops is bitten and starts to turn into a zombie on the helicopter ride home and in a moment of panic Bin Laden’s corpse falls in to the sea. Cut to another band of troops, a few months later, and this time in Afghanistan, trying to find the source of a spate of zombies springing up in the country. Can they stop the spread of the undead before it threatens the whole world? Moreover, is Bin Laden not as dead as it was thought?

The first major fault lies with the script, which fails to back up a great film pitch with a decent story or characters. The quest for somebody or something is one of the classic storytelling archetypes, so you would think that the hunt for the undead version of Osama Bin Laden surely has story telling potential, but the film takes up too much time with repetitive and grating scenes of the soldiers shooting zombies. These scenes are not scary or suspenseful, as a horde of zombies is usually a dozen at the most, and with them being out in the middle of the desert, the zombies can be seen from some distance, reducing the potential for sudden scares. Not that this stops the dumb gung-ho troops, who happily wade into close combat and then are amazed when they are bitten and infected. Moreover, as if the film has to fill some kind of cliché quota, we get a pointless training montage, and even a shot of somebody running in slow motion shouting "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO"

When they are not killing or being killed our heroes are badly delivering crappy jokes and dull dialogue, and when the director tries to switch gears and go for some emotional resonance, the lines are said in the same flat manner as the humour and exposition, and make just as little impact. The villains are just as cartoonish and two-dimensional as the soldiers are, all wearing the standard beard and turban uniform, and every other line of (subtitled) dialogue contains the words God, Allah or infidels.

Some poor quality effects compound the script and acting problems. CGI has become a useful tool for filmmakers to achieve results on screen that belie a low budget, such as in the recent Iron Sky, but here it is used to generate both blood and bullet squibs. Unfortunately, they are poorly rendered and rather obviously from a computer, which makes the constant use of a blood splatter on the 'camera lens' throughout the film, baffling and irritating.

The makeup is competent, nothing particularly new or innovative, just the typical contemporary movie zombie look. This seems to be in keeping with a wider desire by the makers to keep everything very familiar for fans of the genre, and much of the standard undead mythology is adhered to, such as a bite from a zombie causing infection, and needing a bullet in the head being to kill one.

Considering the title of the film, there is one character that is sorely underused, as the Osombie only really appears in the closing few minutes and on-screen or off, he presents nothing in the way of threat or menace. There is also a missed opportunity with some interesting symbolism that is never explored (maybe religious extremism is spreading like a virus?) and what could be a funny fake trailer or a South Park episode is badly stretched out to leave a horror-comedy lacking in scares or laughs.