I SURVIVED A ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST
The New Zealand zombie film was first conducted (sort of) with David Blyths Death Warmed Up (1984) and received its full flowering with Peter Jacksons Braindead/Deadalive (1992), which could be considered the forerunner of the modern zombie comedy. I Survived a Zombie Holocaust is the first NZ film made during the era of the modern zombie film, although it could very much be a successor to Braindead you get the impression that director Guy Pigden has taken much influence from Jackson.
The idea of the slasher film that takes place on the horror movie set was in danger of taking off for a time a few years ago with a handful of low-budget films like Lights Camera Dead (2007), Bleading Lady/Star Vehicle (2010), Fright Flick (2011) and Silent But Deadly (2011) but I Survived a Zombie Holocaust is the first zombie film to take such an approach. The opening film-within-the-film scenes with the impossibly handsomer-than-life Mike Edward charging in with heroic certainty, lantern jaw and a series of excruciating Schwarzenegger-esque quips Fork you, as he despatches a zombie with a fork and Shut your trap as he despatches another with a bear trap make for an appealing parody of the zombie genre.
Thereafter, the film plays out with a fairly simple premise but for the fact that it takes place on a movie set. Much of its humour derives from this. This often comes in broad caricatures each of the characters have a single distinctive characteristic and this is simply repeated whenever they come on. Harley Neville is played as such a nebbish that he belongs more in a Woody Allen film all that is missing is the series of self-deprecating one-liners. The entire film becomes an extended catalogue of humiliations that are heaped upon Harley with everybody on the set delighting in berating him, calling him an idiot and ordering him about. There is the odd amusing line an infected Reanin Johannik stumbles onto set with a usual zombie growl and slaver to be greeted by director Andrew Laing Is that her American accent? followed by her vomiting blood Oh God, shes purging on set. Elsewhere, Mike Edward pushes through a horde of zombies pawing at him to get to his trailer with a dismissive Fans! By about the halfway point though, the film starts to slide into a fairly predictable comedy.
Things however pick up when we arrive at the zombie outbreak in the second half of the film. It is here that Guy Pigden starts to draw on what Peter Jackson laid down in Braindead. The film gets the balance of broad humour and horror comedy mostly right. The level of gore is high and the makeup effects not too bad with even a number of these that are undeniably amusing Harley Neville despatching a zombie with an eggbeater at one point. Jackson still has the advantage in terms of sheer dementia but this emerges as an enjoyable copy.
I Survived a Zombie Holocaust was a directorial debut for New Zealand director Guy Pigden. Pigden subsequently went on to make the Found Footage ghost story tv mini-series Harrow (2017-8) and the non-genre film Older (2018).