Rise of the Zombies is a not so high dive into the fun world of the B horror movie.
This is a good example of the poster putting the star power of the movie out front purely as an audience draw. Regardless of the genre, quality, or tone, the movie’s biggest star, Danny Trejo, is front and center in hopes that fans of his other movies will show up for this one. A good indicator of this is the fact that Trejo isn’t even in the movie for long and doesn’t turn out to be one of the main characters. But as the star with the most drawing power, he’s on the poster.
You could literally take out the zombies and replace them with Sandinistas, angry rioters, a marketplace, a bunch of snowmen, and change the title to rise of the Sandinistas, etc. with no real change.
The plot revolves around a group of survivors holed up on Alcatraz. It’s the classic prison/fortress setting on an island and may seem like a great place to survive. Of course everything goes wrong as the dead keep washing ashore in waves. The majority of the survivors leave Levar Burton’s character behind to continue his research which turns out to be a red herring that doesn’t go anywhere.
From there it’s a constant chase scene to various points throughout the city looking for the vaccine that may or may not turn out to save the day.
Considering the budget, the film makers got quite a lot out of the city. There are some gorgeous shots of the bay bride in San Francisco and some good shots of the city.
It’s just not scary or terribly interesting. The most successful zombie movies were good stories regardless of the type of monster involved. Night of the Living Dead was a commentary on race in America, Dawn of the Dead on consumerism, The Walking Dead is all about family and fortitude. Rise of the Zombies tries to shoehorn some ideas about god and abortion into the story, but they are present in very obvious and preachy ways. The dialogue doesn’t come across naturally or feel genuine. It just feels forced.
There are numerous coincidences throughout the movie that seem to be there to drive the story forward but which don’t actually make much sense. The dog the survivors find in a car just happens to belong to the very same researcher they are trying to find who’s miles away. The survivors happen to be looking at Alcatraz at the same moment Levar Burton blows himself up.
When a story ties together cohesively it’s satisfying but this just didn’t do the trick.
In the end our survivors lift off in a helicopter and fly away into the sunset with a vaccine in hand. (It’s very nearly the same ending as the first Resident Evil game.) Amazingly the pilot got his arm cut off just a few moments before yet is still able to make it upstairs, prep the chopper, and get them airborne. Granted he has help from Marial Hemmingway’s character but it’s pretty hard to believe. Have you ever broken something or had that kind of trauma? The easy write off is that adrenalin is just making him numb to the pain but that’s such an overused crutch that again I can’t possibly feel anything other than a good eye roll for the ending.
A common issue with movies at this level is a color alteration or filter that looks like an Instagram photo. The color saturation is off and the look and feel of the movie seems cheaper. It’s actually a way to correct for inconsistencies in the filming schedule like different lighting at varying times of day and a way to create a consistent “feel” or “mood.”