In this day and age of the zombie film there is pretty much nothing left to be done. Between all of the excellent George A. Romero zombie films, the Italian zombie subgenre, and all of the terrible direct to DVD zombie flicks we get there's very little if anything left to be seen. But I have to say that when I first heard of "American Zombie" I thought that the concept was at least fresh and interesting. Then again, I've heard that time and time again about zombie films that are upcoming and most of the time they disappoint even if they do sound promising.
"American Zombie" is a mockumentary of sorts about a group of "zombies" living in the regular population along with humans. See in Los Angeles the population is rising at a rapid pace and it's mainly because of the rise in "undead" citizens. Most of them are actually functioning pieces of society able to think and react like most of us do each and every day. Then there are others who are explained in the film that are below that thinking standard. At that point most of them seemed to be used for mindless factory jobs or things of that nature. At the beginning we meet John Solomon who is an independent filmmaker who never quite finished up with his final film project. John enlists friend and accomplished documentary film maker Grace Lee (who is actually the writer/director of "American Zombie" the mockumentary) to work on the project. At first we are introduced to Ivan (Austin Basis) a young late night convience store clerk who comes across like your typical twenty something in anywhere USA. He also dates a "human" or "zombie chaser" as they are called, as well as making a zombie zine in his spare time. Then there is Joel, who runs Z.A.G. (Zombie Activist Group) a group who is constantly fighting for the rights of zombies everywhere. See Joel actually feels like zombies are being treated as second class citizens and that they should enjoy things like health insurance and paid vacations. These folks are more on the positive side of the zombie spectrum. Then you have two females here in the movie that are not as happy as the others here that they are considered the walking dead. There's Lisa who is a very mousy woman who sits at home and works on her art pieces. She's clearly obsessed with what happened to her before she was in the state and is dying to know about who she was. Then there is Judy, a woman who basically obsessed with being "normal". She doesn't really acknowledge any other zombies and keeps scrap books of everything so that she can remember things that happen. Although when you see in the movie all of the scrapbooks you realize that she may be a little too obsessed. As the end of the film approaches so does the biggest zombie event that happens each year with Live Dead. It's something that are fearless film makers won't take no for an answer when they are told that there are no humans allowed. Mix this in with the fact that you have two documentary film makers bickering because of the direction of the movie and you have one interesting sticky situation.
Earlier on in my review I mentioned how the zombie genre has basically been exhausted at this point. With that being said, I actually found "American Zombie" to be something rather cleaver and at the very least attempting to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack. It's certainly not your typical zombie movie with action, shots to the head, and flesh ripping though so be warned before watching if that's what you want to see. This is more of a sharp witted attempt at making a zombie movie that won't remind you of everything you've ever seen. I think it's even safe to say that they kept the Romero influence to a minimum (although they do actually show a part of "Night of the Living Dead" at the beginning to show footage of zombies. Nice touch) and it never feels like it can't stand on its own two feet.
The acting in the film is pretty solid from all parties considering they all have to play characters that come across like everyday people. This alone makes the film interesting in my opinion since the movie lives and dies by its actors. They really did get a good crew of them here in this film and there are things about all of them individually that make them solid actors and have the ability to pull of their characters.
Overall I would recommend that you check out "American Zombie". It's a rare breed of zombie film that actually tries to take it in another direction than we sure haven't seen much of lately. My only complaint about the movie was that I thought there were pacing problems in parts as it dragged a bit, but it's nothing that really hindered my enjoyment of this movie. Recommended.
Rating - ***