The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at] I'd love to check out what you got. And check out my book, Chad in Accounting, over on Amazon.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Navy Seals vs. Zombies (2015)

When I started doing reviews again, I saw that Dudikoff was doing movies again as well, which was exciting, because according to imdb he hadn't made anything since 2002, and we had exhausted his DTV output.  Combine that with the idea of Navy Seals vs. Zombies, and this felt like a no-brainer--and unfortunately, in the DTV world, no-brainer more-often-than-not turns out to be not-so-good.

Navy Seals vs. Zombies follows a Navy Seal unit that is called into Baton Rouge to rescue the vice president, played by former NBA standout Rick Fox.  Turns out the reason they need to rescue him is Baton Rouge has been overrun by zombies.  With all of their elite, tactical training, can the best of the best handle this mindless, relentless, murdering menace?

So maybe Ed Quinn isn't hanging his head in shame, but anyone watching this could be forgiven for feeling exasperated.  He was hanging his head after one of the most lackluster, afterthought-ish helicopter explosions I've seen--like the post-credits Infinity War helicopter explosion thought the one here was mailed in.  The ultimate issue as I saw it was an identity crisis.  It's meant to be a celebration of the military and what they go through to protect our country, and the sacrifices they make and the bonds that are formed with their comrades.  I could totally get behind that, if they weren't fighting ZOMBIES!!  You can't be The Hurt Locker if you're fighting zombies!  It doesn't get more sauteed in wrong sauce than that.  This needed to be camp on ten, more Charlie Sheen tracking down his repoed vintage car in a high-speed bicycle chase set to Mr. Big's "Strike Like Lightning" than bros strapping on gear and saying things like "copy that" while chuckling at a joke.  From there, I think the helicopter explosion is a metaphor for the rest of the film: it felt perfunctory and repetitive.  I could have gotten what I got from any number of zombie films.  There was nothing "Navy Seals" about our heroes, they didn't show off any special training, didn't do anything special, and got their brains eaten and their carotid arteries chewed apart just like anyone else.  Ultimately this felt more bait-and-switch than the good time its name suggested it would be.

So what would make a Navy Seals vs. Zombies work?  First off, compelling characters like Charlie Sheen and Michael Biehn's in Navy Seals.  That iconic scene of Charlie Sheen chasing down his car on a bicycle then jumping on the back of the truck to get it down, again, all set to "Strike Like Lightning" did more in 1:45 to establish who Sheen's character was than any of the characters were established in 90 minutes of this.  When we think of the character that I think was the one we were supposed to root for, we see him with his wife, and know that she's pregnant; and that's how he's established as someone we should be invested in.  Again, the latter is great when we're making The Hurt Locker; the former though is what gets it done in a Navy Seals vs. Zombies scenario.  From there, the action needs to be fun and explosive.  Guys aiming machine guns at zombies, and asking their superior if they should shoot, isn't going to get it done.  Give me a guy who runs out of bullets, and starts taking out zombies with a knife; or maybe like Guile in Street Fighter bicycle kicks a zombie's head off.  Get campy, get fun, and make it awesome, and maybe you have a cult classic.

When we last saw Mr. Dudikoff, we were looking at the Noirish thriller In Her Defense in 2011.  I think the problem here is all he was doing was playing the jerk commanding officer who gives people are hard time and doesn't listen to them, but wants to have the back of his guys in the field.  We all know what we needed in this one, don't we?  All of his men are taken out by the zombies, and he's America's last hope.  He dawns those ninja PJs, loads up on throwing stars and other ninja weaponry, and, sans parachute, jumps into the war zone and takes them all out.  The bonus is, dressed in ninja PJs, you can swap in any number of stunt men to handle any scenes Dudikoff doesn't feel up to anymore.  We needed Dudikoff, as the film's one hall of famer, to get in there and save this thing, and unfortunately it never happened.

The other big star in this for me was Rick Fox, who played in the NBA, most notably for the championship winning Lakers of the early 2000s, but also a member of my Celtics prior to that.  One thing I noticed was his scenes felt really unnatural, and that didn't square with a Hallmark Christmas movie my wife Jen and I saw a month or two ago that had him in it.  I think the difference in the two performances had as much to do with the directors as anything.  The Christmas movie was directed by the great Fred Olen Ray; this was directed by stunt coordinator/stuntman Stanton Barrett, and this was, you guessed it, his first ever work as a director.  In fact, they wrote "(attached)" next to his name on imdb.  He had done some second unit work in four films before this, but I think you can see the difference between how someone with the directorial experience like Fred Olen Ray can get something more out of an actor, even under a tight schedule and tight budget--which is why directors like Ray get hired, either to make a script like this happen in short time for short money; or save something like that after a couple rewrites to get something respectable out there.

One of the other stars in the film was Chad Lail, a professional wrestler who also served in the US Marine Corps.  The film leaned on his military background, which makes sense, but, again, we're dealing with zombies, we should also be focusing on his wrestling career too.  He needs to somehow end up in full wrestling garb, and then start ripping zombies apart and giving them Frankensteiners.  Again, if this is a serious military movie, Chad Lail turning in a sobering performance where the sacrifices and bravery involved in military service are highlighted and celebrated really fits; but when the enemy is zombies, I need a zombie's head smashed with a Tombstone Pile Driver.

Okay, let's wrap this up here.  The idea of a Navy Seals vs. Zombies should work, but this one didn't get the degree of camp we needed to make it work. If the villain weren't zombies, I would get their approach; but zombies are supposed to be campy and fun. Maybe the Walking Dead has given film makers the idea that you can make it a serious drama, but that show is next level, and it's hard to pull that kind of thing off.  When it's Navy Seals vs. Zombies, I think it needs more camp, especially when it's done on a low budget like this.

1 comment:

  1. I have this in my Que someplace its been there for a while, after your review it just might stay there.