With an amazing and ridiculous name like Zombies of Mass Destruction you may be thinking ‘oh no not another zombie comedy’ but this brilliant and brutal hilarious horror has a serious satirical bite that takes a tasty chunk out of American paranoia and Islamophobia post 9/11.
It is 2003 and as the Iraq war wages, much closer to home on the island of Port Gamble a microcosm of American prejudices and preconceptions is being played out by the people of the sheltered community.
A fire and brimstone reverend preaches of the evils of homosexuality; a right wing politician campaigns against his hippie neighbour to become town mayor; Tom (Doug Fahl), a local boy returns to the island with his boyfriend to come out to his narrow-minded mother; and Frida (Janette Armand) and her Iranian refuge father struggle against the racism and stupidity of the locals who keep thinking they are anti-American Muslims from Iraq.
But the folk of this small idyllic town are about to have a much bigger problem than fighting with each other as an invasion is coming, an invasion of flesh eating unstoppable undead zombies. As the streets slip into chaos and the locals lose control to fear and paranoia, it appears the only people who can save them all are the very people the town has already turned against.
Replacing Islamic fundamental terrorists with zombies is a brilliant concept which lets the film work not only as intelligent exploration of U.S fear, racism, religion and politics during Bush’s reign in the White House but as a great horror comedy too which is genuinely both funny and scary.
Braindead style zombie slap-stick – like the laugh out loud scene when Tom comes out to his mother who has already turned – is blended with some more serious and disturbing moments, such as when Frida is tortured by her hick neighbour who thinks the zombies are a terrorist plot she is involved in, all working wickedly well.
Director Kevin Hamedani, who also co-wrote the script based on his own experiences as an Iranian American growing up in a small-minded suburb, balances the various elements perfectly. Delivering on all fronts with shocks, gore, laughs and some cutting insights into the American mentality.
The cast of relative unknowns is excellent, especially the leads. And although the script delights in dealing with broad stereotypes the characters are all well fleshed out before they are devoured by the flesh eating and slow moving monsters.
Obviously influenced by Romero’s allegorical use of the undead, Zombies of Mass Destruction is a clever, funny and very entertaining horror comedy that offers something different from the usual zom-com by getting you to think before you have your brains feasted on.
It also contains one of my favourite zombie movie lines ever, when the town preacher reassures his fearful congregation by saying “We have history’s greatest zombie on our side – Jesus Christ.”