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PBIFF Review: “Zombie Hamlet” (POSITIVE)

April 18, 2012

You know what’s been getting annoying lately? Found footage films. sure “Paranormal Activity” reset the standard to what’s good and what’s not so good, but there is so much you can do with that style, it basically becomes boring after a while. So, it was only a matter of time for somebody to come along and spoof it. Todays generation of so called ‘spoof-comedies’ seems to be overrun by the hacks behind “Date Movie”, “Meet the Spartans”, and “Vampires Suck”; feeding us with constant gross out jokes, endless pop culture references, and the worst acting imaginable. However, we’ve been given a special gift of a spoof comedy that doesn’t go to extreme levels to be branded as a full bread spoof…“Zombie Hamlet”.

The film tells the story of a filmmaker named Osric Taylor (Travis Wester) who dreams of bringing his Civil War version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet to the big screen…with zombies. Don’t judge, that’s basically what Shakespeare was going for to begin with. Oscric and his producing partner Kate Spangler (Vanessa Lee Evigan) venture down to the boyous of Lousiana to scout for the ideal location. There they meet Hester Beauchamps (June Lockhart), a kindly southern woman who steps in at the last minute when the film came to the verge of being shut down. She offers up her riches to continue the movies path, if her grand niece, Annabelle (Emmalee Wilson) gets to co-star in the movie. Mayhem ensues after somebody on the set turns up dead and a fine line of fraud, criminal acts, and artistic integrity come into light. Can Osric finish his movie without risking his career and the rest of crew?

The story is caught on camera through the point-of-view of the films idiot make-up artist Lester (Brendan Michael Coughlin), a local ADHD crazed 20-something year old who’s convinced that whenever someone holds a camera in hand they can automatically create ‘art’. His hyperactive nature gets the better of him as he truly goes all out with capturing the events that are unfolding right in front of him. If anything the movie is more of a homage to the Christopher Guest mock-docs, rather than found footage films, but in todays world, younger viewers will identify this movie as a found footage film rather than a mockumentary. As the movie begins, the first fifteen minutes I’ll admit I was rather puzzled, the editing style came off extremely amateur-ish and hyper. It’s as if this movie was cut together by an eager 14-year-old, then after those fifteen minutes, you come to the understanding that the movie is being seen through the eyes of Lester, which means this is Lester’s movie, and this is how HE would cut it, which I’ll give credit to director of the film, John Murlowski, that’s pretty damn clever. Seeing the movie through Lester’s eyes, gives the comedy a whole new meaning for it’s intended wackiness, and surfaces as comedic brilliance.

In my minds eye, what I took away from the film was it was a spoof of the infamous film doc, “Hearts of Darkeness”, the behind the scenes movie about the making of Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now”. The both share same themes, both films follow passionate filmmakers, hungry to make a masterpiece, and the cameras behind the scenes capture the complete meltdown of the production, the crew, the actors, and most of all the director. Where “Hearts of Darkness” is a violently intense dramatic portrait of filmmaking maddness, “Zombie Hamlet” is filmmaking at it’s looniness. Actors are acting wild, the director is cross-dressing, voodoo witch doctors are rewarded as directors, people are going all over the place. It’s an enjoyable hour and twenty minutes of silliness.

I’m not quite sure how audiences will take this film, its a very different kind of comedy, and yet it’s very basic. For one thing you’ve got Jason Mewes of ViewAskew fame co-starring as the egotistical actor hired to play Hamlet, all because he had a fling with the producer, Miss. Spangler. What origingally drew me to this movie was the fact that Mewes was in it, and yet I was utterly surprised that the movie maintained a PG stature with Mewes involved. Director, John Murlowski stated at the Q&A, “It was funny watching Jason work on this film because, he was playing a role where cursing wasn’t an option for him”. I agree, I actually found him even funnier because he wasn’t cursing every five minutes. After Murlowski casted Jason, he was then introduced to Jersey filmmaker, Kevin Smith. In fact, John [Murlowski] said that while the film is being shopped around for distribution, they might consider going the Smodcast Productions route, and possibly go on tour much like “Red State” did. If it were to go that way, it would be under the Smodcast Productions banner, which begs the question, will Kevin Smith fans see a PG rated comedy about a film production going haywire? As a Smodcast fan I’d say…FUCK YES! “Zombie Hamlet” was lucky enough to make it’s World Premiere at the Palm Beach International Film Festival.

GRADE: B+

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