Stars: Mariel Hemingway, Ethan Suplee, LeVar Burton, Danny Trejo, Heather Hemmens, French Stewart, Chad Lindberg, Lorenzo Eduardo, Andy Clemence | Written by Keith Allan, Delondra Williams | Directed by Nick Lyon
Nick Lyon, who previously directed the Ving Rhames starring Zombie Apocalypse, returns the the land of the living dead with Rise of the Zombies, another Syfy channel original movie that tells the story of a group of survivors holed up in Alcatraz, well away from the zombie plague. However when their island refuge is overrun by the undead they take the risk of heading back to the mainland to find a scientist who is rumored to have found a cure for the disease.
From the very opening of Rise of the Zombies you know that this film is going to be different. First off there is a solid explanation for the existence of the undead – in this case a virus has been released into the city’s water supply turning the locals into zombies. And then there’s the cast. Featuring a host of familiar names and faces, including Mariel Hemingway, Ethan Suplee, LeVar Burton, Danny Trejo, French Stewart and Chad Lindberg, the cast elevate the film to a whole another level and it feels nothing like a low-budget horror should: time is spent on character development, there’s a focus on the effects of the plague on the survivors and the film even touches upon aspects of faith in the face of a zombie apocalypse – all of which will surprise you even more when you realise this is a film from The Asylum!
What also sets Rise of the Zombies apart from others of its ilk is in the way the film treats its zombies. Yes, they still want to eat the faces off all the surviving humans but there’s also an edge of humanity to them. Plus this is the first time, in recent memory, that I’ve seen zombies come crawling out of the ocean – it reminded me a lot of 1977′s Shockwaves and Lucio Fulci’s zombie oeuvre… However don’t think that the film skimps on the gore. It doesn’t. Right from the opening scene, where one of the survivors pummels the face of a zombie in, Rise of the Zombies is packed with gore – there’s also a nod (as is the wont of many zombie films) to George Romero’s Day of the Dead and THAT scene featuring Joe Pilato being torn apart. Thankfully, despite the big name cast, no-one is safe from turning into zombies – which means that you might see one of the “big name” actors turned into the undead, wearing some of the films superb zombie make-up.
Featuring an interesting take of zombie mythos, some inventive and eerie stylistic choices (although I would have liked fewer CGI-enhanced scenes), Rise of the Zombies is a fantastic addition to the genre. The ending, which has shades of Dawn of the Dead‘s conclusion, leaves things wide open for a sequel and I for one would love to see it.
Rise of the Zombies is released on DVD on May 13th from Anchor Bay Entertainment.