“Welcome to America, prick”
And now comes the kind of review I hate to write. Being as independent oriented as the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival is, you will have to see some local productions if you plan on taking on a large portion of the schedule. What happens, though, is that oftentimes the amateur work shown in this category just doesn’t come close to the production, budget, or talent of its more polished brethren. I know how much hard work went into the horror comedy Zombie Bankers and I applaud writer/director/star Drew Snyder and all his collaborators. The tough thing to say on top of that, however, is how it’s just not a great film. I’m sure no one involved had any illusions that their finished product would be more than the schlocky, low-budget, homemade film it is, but that doesn’t make it okay to willingly bash the fruits of their labor for fun. It’s not fun to do, but I also can’t lie and say I enjoyed more than a couple jokes. For anyone not watching himself onscreen and getting a kick out of the memories, the movie is simply a tedious mess.
There are attempts at homage with a “Twilight Zone” opening narration, introducing us to the three leads—Carson (Snyder’s older, dog loving, penny-pincher), John (Patrick A. Cameron’s discharged vet of two tours in Iraq left to languish in poverty), and Claire (Kristen Mandilas’s co-ed who didn’t know you’d get kicked out of graduate school if you missed an interest payment)—and the air is ripe with whiffs of George Romero-type political undertones. As a concept, Zombie Bankers’s use of America’s debt-ridden society as the new zombie is fresh, but confusing. The purpose of these ‘undead’ roamers appears to switch as the film goes on. We first catch a glimpse of the hoards during a dream Carson has where the money-hungry populace gets the young bankrupt hoards to come for fiscal rehabilitation classes. These doctors and nurses suck the last bits of dollar bills from their patients, leaving the poor to be zombies and the rich to bask in the glory of ill-gotten wealth. But why then are the zombies hungry for money? The medical system, banks, and credit card companies want the money; the zombies lose it. So shouldn’t the thieves be the zombies attacking the unsuspecting working Middle Class?
I guess it all seemed backwards to me because in the context of zombies being poor, they would end up turning normal as they acquired their victim’s money, turning them into zombies. Perhaps I read too far into it, but for some reason this aspect, being the central crux to the film’s plot, was too important to be missed. Maybe the film was created to simply have fun and all the political rants from Carson were added bonuses to make it appear to have deeper meaning. Little details, though, like a zombie stripper—working for dollar bills to stay afloat—or the fact that pregnant mothers needed to donate baby blood so zombie teens could get a fresh flow of economic liquidity blatantly shows poor individuals are the feeders while the fat cats taking money to create them stay unscathed. To me this is counter-productive since the point of zombies is taking, not giving. They take blood and create more undead, so in the scope of this film’s plot, hospitals and banks should be the zombies feeding for cash, recruiting others to feed and steal more.
Those qualms aside, the road trip component of Zombie Bankers is where the few redeeming qualities reside. Snyder is actually a decent actor, very composed and assured in front of the camera, adding to the chasm between his talent level and those around him. Cameron does his best and Mandilas shows glimpses of skill, but the two become more of a joke to overuse by making Carson the third wheel to their sexual insatiability. Brian Cooper’s Iroquois Crusher is the real surprise. It’s a role that appears to cross a line from satire to racism, but due to the fact he appears to have no problem mocking his heritage, I’m going to believe it’s all down in jest. Crusher is the optimal guide for this trio of survivors looking to take down the ‘man’ because the Native Americans have perfected living off the grid, so to speak. A master of weapons, a shape shifter with bear clan mysticism, and just an all-around nice guy, this mysterious and apparently immortal man adds greatly to the comedy by making the others uncomfortable and also thankfully takes screentime away to avoid more odd music interludes of “Old McDonald”.
At the end of the day, though, the true success of a film like this is in the eyes of its creators. The group at the screening seemed really excited to watch the final product on the big screen, egging on their director to make a speech—one that ended up being a fictional riff in the vein of Steve Martin’s “I was born a poor black child”. I believe the message is one worthy of artists trying to create something around and I think if the dynamic of zombies vs. humans was improved, the film could have garnered a need to be seen. There is charm to the practical effects, (those obviously fake props like a decapitated mannequin head or the green sputum that oozes from a bashed and battered zombie), and the glint of tongue-in-cheek demeanor from the cast. Snyder had a vision and got it made—kudos to him. But there is more to a horror film them make-up, an attractive girl in a bikini, and gruesome death scenes. The potential was there and, with a more focused script, could rise again. Right now, though, it’s a mess that wears its craft on its sleeve—and that, unfortunately, is not a good thing.
courtesy of Zombie Bankers official site