I’m glad I finally found this movie. After seeing a trailer for it, then forgetting the title, it took me quite a while to finally come across it. Thank you Hulu!
Let’s start with this poster image.
The poster does a good job of setting us up for what’s coming without giving too much away. It’s a zombie flick set in the late 1800’s. Nice.
The great placement of the four star ratings on each shoulder of the protagonist gives a military feel, (perfect since he was in the Civil War,) and the way the letters in humanity drip down remind us a bit of an American flag.
It isn’t so bad in this particular example, but I tend to not be a fan of the way several different images are photoshopped into a poster image. I’ve seen much worse examples of this, but having watched the movie, these are some of the least memorable zombies featured. Actually what stands out about the look and feel of the zombies was a bit different from what I see here on the poster.
The movie opens giving the viewer a serious case of deja vu. We are told that in the midst of a modern day outbreak of the living dead a journal has surfaced. That this book details the rising of the dead in the 19th century and that it’s just possible that the key to our salvation is within.
Stylistically speaking I felt as if I had heard this before. Look at the way it’s shot and even the voice of the narrator. Isn’t this Evil Dead? Even the scribbly way the book gets filled in with notes and drawings reminds us of the necronomicon. This seemed more like a nice tip of the hat than a blatant rip off so no complaints there but you can tell in the first few seconds of dialogue that the story automatically sets us up for a sequel since the entire movie is essentially a flashback. This had me thinking about what the next story would be like throughout the whole movie.
The book in this case being the aforementioned journal of a man who lived through the American Civil War and who faced an outbreak of the walking dead some years later. We meet the main character and learn a bit about him and his motivation; while away hunting his wife was attacked by and turned into a zombie. His son is missing and so, impatient to wait for him to turn up our hero goes in search of him. This sets us up for a pretty obvious plot reveal, that either he’ll find and save his son, or he’ll find his son has become a walker. When I first watched it I thought this was going to be something we’d have revealed much later in the film, it actually comes about more quickly allowing us to continue deeper into the story
The animation might be a draw for some people to the film, it isn’t so bad, it just wasn’t say, Kill Bill good.
Although as an illustrator I love the inclusion of drawn or animated images, I wasn’t as pleased with the way the animated scenes were integrated with the live action in this movie. The animation wasn’t bad, (in fact I tend to like, loose, sketchy animated images,) it just wasn’t good enough to wow me. Also some of the zombies in the animation seemed a bit cookie cutter, like when three shirtless baldies attack someone and get blown away. They seem pretty generic. Rather than make me see how they are all really similar or universal after death, it just made me feel like they were cheap characters from a video game.
The plot and the way it develops is generally satisfying though unoriginal. There are a lot of movie conventions here. The characters are all somehow connected, they are also deeply connected to the zombie outbreak and why it has come about, and yes, the suffering hero gets the girl while the bad guy gets his. It tries a little too hard to reach out and connect the whole of zombiedom together in a way that turns out to be clunky and silly. This whole thing with ancient scrolls that have turned up over the years. It’s a bit much.
Besides that, a great deal of the acting, particularly among the films antagonists seemed forced. It seemed more like stage acting in its over the top style and seemed like the actors were playing 19th century characters rather than playing real people who happened to be in the 19th century.
The zombies in the film are a bit different than ones I’ve seen elsewhere. At times they seem almost comically overly made up with thick white plastered on their skin to make them look, pale? Demonic? It’s not a bad thing but it is a little inconsistent as other zombies don’t seem to be so overdone at other times in the movie. As if the make up guys found their voice part way through filming.
I think the main character said this about ten times in the movie. At least it felt like he spent a lot of time just yelling. It was a bit much. At one point I felt like he was trying to mimic Arnold’s epic scream in Predator, but come on. NO ONE outdoes THAT scream!