Automaton Transfusion was critically slated upon its initial stateside release. Made on a meager $30,000 budget this was never going to be the Citizen Kane of horror. So here we are a few years later, the great British public now able to buy or rent this Zombie romp for ourselves. And hey, it’s even got a new, slightly more sensical title. Now that’s value for money. Take THAT America!
The film follows a trio of high school outcasts who abstain from the ‘hottest party of the year’ instead opting for a night of pseudo, counter culture revelry. Leadby the archetypal brat, Chris, the group soon discover that the world has been overrun by the curiously athletic undead. Deciding to run rather than wait, they make haste for the now blood soaked shindig in order to save Chris’ dimly naturist -at one point she shamelessly engages in a session of half naked heavy petting in a public parking lot- girlfriend. Guts fly, faces are impaled and conspiracies revealed.
From the offset the film makes no qualms about its limited funds as it whole heartedly attempts to create something with gratifying scope and thoughtful causality. Unlike most low budget films of this kind there is a genuine sense of scale, the zombie outbreak effecting not only small time suburbia but the adjacent city and thinly populated woods as well. Pleasingly, when the film does fall back into more constrictive environments such as a house or a school the action is sufficiently frenetic enough to hold your attention. The attacks could have easily fallen into the shaky cam ‘I have no idea what the hell is going on’ style of cinematography but luckily the editing and camerawork is efficient enough that a visual clarity remains intact, you always know who bit what where. Lesser achieved is the continuity of sound and image which suffers significantly from scene to scene as ADR is regularly needed and rarely implemented whilst visually the lighting and contrast will change radically within the same scene.
Beyond the audio and lighting issues Zombie Transfusion suffers in other, less fundamental areas as well. Chris is the typical teen model of narcisistic angst and raging hormones, a winning combination only further amplified by his super duper affection for all things whiney and fringe laden. Early on in the film he makes clear his quest to attend a gig by the ditsy/s**tsy/emo/screamo nonsense band Dance Floor Tragedy (I threw up part of my soul upon hearing that crap heap of a moniker). As he and his buddies make their way to the show they decide to attack the highways and byways of ‘Couldbeanywheresville USA’ with their questionable taste in music, the car stereo emitting the punitive sounds of a youth culture gone awry. In light of this unfortunate choice of soundtrack a more accurate movie title would have been Emo Kids in Zombie Town…
Speaking of Troma, another problem occurs in the jarring juxtaposition of Kaufmenesque violence and handheld, docu-style footage. I’m all for back street abortions performed by flesh eating zombies but such silly moments are irrefutably perplexing when presented in a gritty, handheld format. Luckily, director Steven C. Miller has enough common sense to throw in the occasionally dolly shot and still frame. This not only soothes the conflict between style and substance but also implies an authentic thought process behind the production. It’s refreshing to see a low budget film with more of a plan to it than ‘get the footage, we’ll worry about “angles” later’.
Zombie Transfusion is the filmic equivalent of your average full English breakfast, you know it’s bad for you and it doesn’t even taste very good. But it certainly leaves you satisfyingly bloated, happy that you have indulged in such wonderful garbage.
Additional film information: Automaton Transfusion (2006)