14th Feb2015

‘The Burning Dead’ Review

by Joel Harley

Stars: Danny Trejo, Thomas Downey, Moniqua Plante, Nicole Cummins, Kevin Norman, Robert F. Lyons, Kyle T. Heffner, Julia Lehman, Tom Nagel, Jenny Lin, Adam Gregor, Robert Amstler, Matthew W. Tate, Morgan Lester, Jailene Arias | Written by Jason Ancona, Jeff Miller | Directed by Rene Perez


Say, you know what would have made the Tommy Lee Jones disaster movie Volcano better? Lava zombies and cult icon Danny Trejo, if Rene Perez’s undead disaster movie is anything to go by. When a simmering volcano blows its top in small-town America, the locals have more to worry about than simple immolation – the emergence of a horde of long-buried zombies from within adding considerably to their woes.

A small band of survivors hustle together to escape both the perils of the lava and the zombies, hunkering down in a woodland cabin, where the crinkly old resident within is undergoing some serious social media withdrawal symptoms. Say what you will about The Burning Dead (and a lot of that is to come in the next couple of paragraphs) but it’s the only horror film I’ve ever seen that dared tackle the tricky subject of, um, internet addiction in the midst of its zombie apocalypse. “I gotta Tweet my followers,” its grumpy old coot grumbles, even as zombies threaten to consume the lot of them. There’s a sense of humour, then, and an interesting (if distinctly Syfy) concept, plus the always welcome presence of Mister Trejo. There’s the distinct possibility that The Burning Dead could actually turn out to be quite good.

And then the film actually starts, and most of those hopes are thoroughly dashed. It opens promisingly, with an old-timey Western prologue, horses and gut-munching zombies – then the lava arrives, showcasing some of the worst CGI ever seen outside of a cheap Syfy feature, while the humour all-too frequently fails to hit its mark. Trejo certainly isn’t enough to save it, being in it only long enough for a brief cameo at the start and to grumble over the opening credits (looking suspiciously like his scenes were tacked on to the rest of the film in order to attract a bigger audience).

What it does have going for it, however, is some surprisingly decent gore and zombie action. The level of gore starts out high and stays as much throughout, with plenty of gratuitous intestinal spaghetti, blood spatter and blue-faced living corpses. The undead horror is livened up by the zombies dripping lava on their victims just before devouring them. It could be utilised more, and much better, but it’s still a nifty touch that sets it apart from many others.

The Burning Dead is a typically cheap zombie disaster movie enlivened by its Danny Trejo cameo and lava spewing zombies. Like so many Syfy level movies, it sounds so much better on paper than it is in reality, a good idea not backed up by its budget or, sadly, talent. In spite of its best intentions, this one is more tepid than burning hot.

** 2/5


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