27th Jan2021

‘Zombacter: Center City Contagion’ Review

by Chris Thomas

Stars: Eric Starkey, Doug Van Liew, Cassie Self, Kate Moore, Mike Waugh, Sundeep Sharma, Darron Dunbar, Aiya Attaway, Elisha Pratt, Pamela Bell, Peter Anthony Seay, Kyle Penington, Raymond Roberts, Mel Ellis | Written and Directed by Sean Bingham

Zombacter: Center City Contagion is a brilliantly camp film title. Let us just savour it for a moment before we dive in. A cold opening brings us into some zombies running amuck, before a surprisingly competent CGI style opening titles piece takes us to “seven weeks earlier…” It is a trope that often irritates me. It is clearly a zombie film.. it is called Zombacter, can we not trust the viewer will stick with it long enough for the zombies to turn up.

Our scientist is using rabbits to develop an organic computer, which is a very cool idea for a film premise. It elaborates by saying this is via “genetically engineered bacteria” … which is even more brilliant. The acting is a little bit ripe but fun. I was just enjoying a particularly good moustache on an intern when suddenly one of the lab coats gets bitten by one of the “science rabbits”. It takes me right back to Sumatran Rat-Monkey (of which I was terrified, as an 11 year old). Soon enough, our scientist is donning a gas-mask and killing a test rabbit with a spade.

Sadly it is our moustachioed hero (the moustache makes him the hero, rather than the plot) who is bitten – a bite that looks like it came from a rabid bulldog. Before we know what is happening our scientist is euthanising the test rabbit, before a vest wearing slacker sycophant is disposing of the rabbit corpse by putting it in his car… for some reason. Sadly, it is this lax method of disposing with the experiment that leads to a late-night hobo feast and our contagion. As the Ramones song goes “I don’t wanna be buried in a lab rabbit cemetery”.

The tone of Zombacter can be strange at times. Camp schlockfest, with cliched characters occasionally makes way for sombre death scenes, mixed in with the silliness, it is jarring and clumsy. Making the “mad scientist” and the “hobo” the action heroes is also a slightly strange choice. Before long, our band of tired character archetypes, that do not quite fit the actors performing them, is trekking across the zombie infested town (filmed at night, to presumably ensure the streets are clear).

The direction is perfectly fine, in a “camp B movie” kind of way. As is the lighting. Though tere are lots of lighting effects that look like they are generated by a Philips Hue! Some of the gore effects are impressive too. It is no Rob Bottin, but it is not bad at all. Other practical effects (like the gunshots) are less impressive. However the music was definitely made on an Apple Mac – it is decent and unobtrusive though. Yet there was one John Carpenter-esque tune I particularly enjoyed with reverb base (16 minutes in if you are interested).

Honestly, Zombacter: Center City Contagion is not a good film. It is also not quite fun or inventive enough to recommend with friends over a pizza and a few beers (when our, real-life contagion is over). Perhaps the one thing preventing it from being a solid recommendation is its own modicum of competence.

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