Elephant's Graveyard (2015)
Directed by B. Harrison Smith.
Cast: Michael Kean, Gabrielle Stone, Billy Zane, Brian Anthony Wilson, Dee Wallace, Mischa Barton, Brian Gallagher, Felissa Rose, Kyle Patrick Brennan, Joe Raffa, Ollie Lange, Susan Moses, Davy Raphaely, Dan McGlaughlin, Eli Deitrich.
2015 104 minutes
Not Rated (equivalent of an R for strong violence and gore, sexual content, nudity and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for TheFrightFile.com, February 3, 2015.
A deadly outbreak that could be viral, or bacterial, or both, has swept across the planet, turning living people into zombies. A flimsy-looking barrier has been built up around a wide stretch of land, the survivors within its borders breaking up into factions. There are the makeshift zombie killers of the title, led by ex-military man Seiler (Billy Zane). There is Doc (Brian Anthony Wilson), whose followers treat him like a god. There are the religious extremists, headed by Lia (Felissa Rose), who spend their days preaching about damnation and the righteous path. And, there are the outliers of the town, like the pregnant Toni (Mischa Barton) and her much-older boyfriend Rory (Brian Gallagher), at the mercy of the power-hungry rulers of this twisted compound. Struggling to survive while getting caught in the middle is Ian (Michael Kean), a young man working for Seiler as he prepares to say goodbye to his terminally ill mother (Dee Wallace).
Because there was nothing to think about while watching "Zombie Killers: Elephant's Graveyard" outside of the many ways it was going wrong, here, for your enjoyment, are just a smattering of those musings:
- This film would not exist were it not for the popularity of AMC series "The Walking Dead." The premise and many of the characters are virtual carbon copies. The haphazard writing is not.
- The project clearly had a budget big enough to afford a handful of recognizable actors, but once their paychecks were signed it left no money for anything else. It is depressing to have to watch fine performers like Billy Zane (with 1997's "Titanic" a distant memory), Mischa Barton (a long way from TV's "The O.C.") and Dee Wallace (an '80s staple in high-profile pictures like "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" and "Cujo") trying their damnedest to make this low-rent fare seem legit.
- Writer-director B. Harrison Smith (co-writing with David Agnew Penn) is at a total loss when it comes to establishing his own creative voice and tone. The movie is far too downbeat and serious to be taken as a spoof of the genre, and yet it is so broad and ridiculous it never rises above being a joke.
- The dialogue is glorious to behold, and not in a positive way. With lines like "Little boys kick stones, men kick ass!" and lead-footed references to one-liners from "Die Hard," "Lethal Weapon," "Army of Darkness" and "Mommie Dearest," groaning is the only possible reaction to the inane utterances on display. Under such trying circumstances, it is no surprise that many of the actors have trouble delivering their lines without pausing for a moment to build the courage to verbalize them.
- The computer-generated effects are the worst to grace the screen in a decade, maybe longer, with a herd of stampeding elk and a school of ravenous jumping fish roughly as convincing as a grade-school coloring project. Oddly enough, the couple aerial shots of hundreds of zombies staggering across the countryside look pretty good, which makes the embarrassing CGI stand out all the more.
- Seiler's gun-toting soldiers all wear meticulously designed matching tees that read "Zombie Killers," which begs the question: where were they able to find a printing press and all the pertinent shirt-making materials while in the midst of a zombie apocalypse in Nowhere, Pennsylvania?
- Characters disappear and only sometimes pop back up much later without rhyme or reason. One person makes a crucial discovery in the woods and then takes two days to reappear. Another vanishes altogether in the final scene, never for it to be explained where he went.
- The concept of an elephant's graveyard doesn't make any sense in the context of the film, regardless of what its extraneous subtitle might suggest.
The saving grace of "Zombie Killers: Elephant's Graveyard" is that it is so bad there is a certain sick appeal in witnessing its slide into inadvertent camp. Not remotely scary and only unintentionally funny, the film takes its moody secluded locations and uses them for strictly derivative purposes. The plot is not cohesively developed, the characters are two-dimensional archetypes, and the general filmmaking smells of inexperience. The cast deserves better, and, unless their intention is to make fun of it with friends over a fountain of booze, so do audiences.