19th Jan2021

‘Paradise Z’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Milena Gorum, Alice Tantayanon, Brian Migliore, Michael S. New, Lee Mason, Damian Mavis | Written by Wych Kaosayananda, Steve Poirier | Directed by Wych Kaosayananda

Writer/director Wych Kaosayananda (Tekken 2, Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever) has been somewhat of a busy bee recently with not one but THREE films released in the span of six months. First up was The Driver, swiftly followed by One Night in Bangkok. However unlike those 2 features, which had the star-power name of Mark Dacascos to hang their marketing, Paradise Z – also known as Dead Earth and Two of Us – has crept out into the market with very little fanfare. Probably because it hasn’t kept the same moniker across the countries it has been released in so far. It also doesn’t help that the marketing – that I’ve seen – seemingly doesn’t connect this to The Driver. But it should, Kaosayananda has actually stated this film is set in the same apocalyptical “universe” as the Dacascos-starring zombie movie and is part of an intended TRILOGY of zombie movies! Though this film, at least initially, feels very different to The Driver.

Paradise Z follows two women, Sylvia and Rose, who are seemingly spending their days in idyllic isolation in a luxury paradise resort. However the duos plans are ruined when the resort they are hunkering down in is attacked by the zombies that have taken over the rest of the world. The girls must fight their way out in this heart-pounding battle for survival… who will make it out alive?

As I said in the opener, Paradise Z feels very different to The Driver, even though both take place during the same zombie apocalypse. Whereas the Dacascos film was very much an action film from the get-go, here we’re subject to a more sombre film – which spends its early moments following around Sylvia and Rose as they swim, sunbathe, garden, shower, generally get topless a lot, and make love… It’s not until almost past the gates of the resort; and even longer until Sylvia and Rose have to deal with the horror of the outside world.

Talk about a slow burn! Paradise Z the very definition of slow burn… We spend ages with Sylvia and Rose as ominous music plays on the soundtrack, warning the audience that what we’re seeing isn’t as idyllic as we’re being led to believe. In fact we spend so long that when a ridiculous “dream sequence” jump scare happens you won’t be upset with the cheap scare, more thankful that something, anything, has actually happened. Because for the most part nothing does happen. It’s like flashing back to the travelogue style footage of the Italian zombie movie cycle… where they, thanks to stifled budgets, spent 90% of the film following characters around and 10% actually showing the audience any horrific. The same happens here. It’s almost like Kaosayananda had an idea whilst filming The Driver and instead of shooting a short to be included on a DVD or Blu-ray release, decided to expand it to a feature – with not enough story to actually make that truly possible.

Unfortunately by the time the zombie outbreak reaches the resort, the film is two-thirds over and, for both the characters and the audience, tedium has set in. Making what should be an explosive “Oh my God” moment into an “Oh thank God” moment. Thank god something’s actually happening; thank god there’s more to this film than two women wandering about; thank god they’re gonna get eaten and the film will be over soon… You get my drift!

To be fair there’s a brief scene that questions who are the real monsters here – another cliche of genre films – with Sylvia and Rose killing other survivors but its a fleeting moment that is pretty much abandoned after a ridiculous explanation as to why they attack first and ask questions later. It’s honestly one of the biggest wasted opportunities of the film. Oh, that and exploring the madness of living [almost] alone, in a lockdown-like situation, where – unlike the current world pandemic – there is no way out; no end to the global contagion. On the plus side, at least Kaosayananda’s zombies have more to fear than getting bashed in the head… They don’t like water! It’s an interesting choice to have zombies not survive in water, especially given the tropical resort setting of the film but it’s not enough to make Paradise Z anything other than, when it eventually gets going, more than another cliched zombie movie.

Paradise Z is out on Digital in the UK. The DVD release was apparently cancelled!

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