Undead or Alive: A Zombedy (2007)

undead or alive

“I hope this plague kills all you white people!”

The Scoop: 2007 R, directed by Glasgow Phillips and starring James Denton, Chris Kattan and Navi Rawat

Tagline: Guns don’t kill people. Zombies kill people.

Summary Capsule: Two guys are on the run after breaking out of prison and stealing the sheriff’s money. Turns out these are the least of their problems.

Heather’s rating: 6 out of 10 drunk priests

Heather’s review: Zombies are beginning to lose my interest. There was a surge in undead-related fare in the last few years, giving us awesomeness like Zombieland, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Walking Dead, and Left 4 Dead. The CDC recently posted tips for preparing for a zombie apocalypse that caused their site to crash from all the traffic they received, which says something about how obsessed we’ve become with the brain biters.

Consequently I’m a bit burned out on the genre.

Undead or Alive, a movie about zombies in the Old West, was barely getting more than a raised eyebrow from me. Especially since it stars Chris Kattan. Had it not been for this theme week I probably would have been content to let it rot in my Netflix queue, getting passed over for crap like Food of the Gods.

Zombie overexposure notwithstanding, I’m glad I picked it. It’s got a (mostly) good soundtrack, a (mostly) naked James Denton, and I didn’t want to dump Chris Kattan into a pool of piranhas. Mostly.

Also in its favor is a healthy dose of humor and an entertaining cast. The villains, however, are another story. I speak mainly concerning the sheriff and his bumbling, overweight deputy (is there any other kind?). More on them later.

Our heroes Luke (Kattan) and Elmer (Denton) meet each other about 5 minutes before they get themselves thrown in jail next to a very unhealthy-looking guy that they are told made a midnight snack out of his wife and child.  Stuff and things happen, enabling them to break out and make off with the sheriff’s considerable stack o’ money. They are captured by Susan (Rawat), an Apache woman and the niece of Geronimo, who was raised  in a boarding school in New York after she witnessed all of her people killed by the US Army. She is on a quest for revenge, and literally ropes the two cowboys into helping her find the nearest Army outpost.

Meanwhile the law gives chase, but not before their remaining prisoner takes a chomp out of the deputy’s head and fails to die the next morning at his hangin’. If you know anything about how these movies go, you realize this is the beginning of a terrible thing for the townspeople and our protagonists.

I enjoy different plays on zombies. You can make them slow but unrelenting, smart enough to call for more fresh victims, or run like Kenyans,  but this movie couldn’t decide which it wanted to choose and it left things feeling scattered. Some zombies were very lucid and cunning, some just shambling morons that could barely get out a couple of words. Then there was the stripper zombie, whose dedication to her profession continued after her death. If you just decided you want to see this movie for that reason alone, I have to tell you it was only a few seconds long. Also,  you need professional help.

That made it difficult to decide if these zombies are really intelligent beings to fear, or if some of them need to be avoided lest they annoy you to death. Which brings me to my next problem: The sheriff is one of the most irritating villains I have ever seen. There are only two parts to his personality:  He’s an idiot, and his mouth spews out more insults and spittle than R. Lee Emry forced into a thong. His whiny deputy isn’t any better,  and I honestly would forget they even existed in the movie, their actions being so inconsequential until the very end.

It’s problems like that, and an overall feeling of opportunity missed, that keeps this movie out of my list of films that I’d like to keep re-watching. It’s good enough for an occasional watch, though, and something I recommend showing friends that are into humorous zombie movies.

It’s also entertaining to watch their shocked and horrified faces when it comes time for naked Kattan butt.

“Do you fail to realize the fatal flaw in this plan, my dear fellows? Oh, I mean ‘RRAAAWWRRR’ “

Intermission!

  • I refer to the monsters here as “zombies”, but in the movie they are never called that.  Most of the time they’re known as “the cursed”, since they were caused by Geronimo’s curse.
  • Those are some nice bikini lines for a woman in the Old West.
  • If he ain’t a lecherous alcoholic, then by gum he ain’t no priest of mine!
  • Also, was/is it common for non-Spanish speaking people to refer to Catholic priests as “Padre” anywhere outside of movies and TV?

Groovy Quotes:

Luke: Sorry we have to leave you here, but it just ain’t right to eat your wife’s and daughter’s brains. Plus you’re really disgusting and I don’t wanna spend any more time with you.

Luke: How come you speak such good English, anyway?

Sue: The Colorado River is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Is this news to both of you?
Elmer: Geography wasn’t my thing. I was more of an arts and music guy.

Sue [talking about Geronimo telling her stories of the cursed as a child]: I thought it was just a story.
Luke: Well that is one heck of a story to tell a child. Weren’t there anything about a bunny or a train with good self esteem or anything?

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7 comments

  1. Me, I’m just waiting for a movie to come along that foregoes the brain-eating Romero-zombies and focuses on good old-fashioned ZOMBIE zombies. As in brainless undead voodoo slaves – you know, the genuine article. Those are the kind I like – the brain-muncher movies are all about the non-zombies having to fight to survive, whereas the horror of old-fashioned zombies is that you might become one. That’s interesting, psychological stuff – and yet, we haven’t gotten a voodoo-zombie movie since the early ’60’s or so; since then, it’s been all Romero knockoffs all the time. Feh. (Well, OK, there’ve been a FEW more traditional movie zombies since then – the latest ‘Pirates’ had some – but they haven’t really done anything with them.)

    • A voodoo-style zombie was featured in an episode of the Seventies one season wonder Kolchak: The Night Stalker. The Eighties film Zombie Nightmare (used in the sixth season of MST3K) also used voodoo.

      • I kinda set myself up for a whole string of these examples, didn’t I? OK, fair enough – but the fact remains that the vast, VAST majority of zombie movies made in the past few decades have featured Romero brain munchers. There are exceptions to the rule, but regrettably, that’s what they are – exceptions, and far too rare.

  2. You might want to check out The Serpent and the Rainbow. It’s a Wes Craven-directed film made in 1988 featuring the zombies you’re talking about.

    I never was a big fan, myself. I get more horror from the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped by a hoard of the undead and having limited supplies.

    • Well… OK, I have to admit, I’m kind of a hypocrite here. I guess like the IDEA of voodoo zombies more than actual horror films that include them because, well, I’m a wimp, and horror movies scare me. (Modern horror, that is – old black-and-white stuff I actually quite enjoy.) I HAVE heard good things about ‘Serpent and the Rainbow’, though – maybe one day I’ll muster up the courage to see it.
      I guess my problem with the Romero-zombies is that I just can’t see them as ‘real’ zombies, because they’re about as far from their folkloric counterparts as you can get. I mean, vampires and werewolves and such may have been screwed around with to a huge degree, but at least the basics are kept. A vampire is undead and sucks blood, a werewolf turns into a wolf/wolf-thingy, etc. Now, what are the basics for a zombie? Well, it’s a mindless corpse brought back to life that does its summoner’s bidding. THAT’S. IT. No brain-eating, no everyone who dies or gets bitten becoming one – no, in fact, just about anything that movies keep telling us they do. Yes, these neo-zombies can be scary, and it’s fine that people enjoy that, but THEY’RE NOT ZOMBIES! Zombies do not do these things! In ‘Night of the Living Dead’, they’re referred to as ghouls, if I remember correctly – what was wrong with that? That works perfectly, because A: ghouls have much less clearly-defined attributes in folklore than zombies, so there’s plenty of room to mess around with them and do your own stuff, and B: the one thing that IS agreed upon with ghouls is that they eat dead bodies, which works PERFECTLY with Romero-type undead. If we had a rash of GHOUL movies, I’d have no problem with it (I’d think it was overdone, but I’d still have no problem with it), but nooooo, it’s ‘zombies’! Grrrrr!
      Whew. OK, OK – rant’s over. Sorry. It’s a pet peeve, ya know? Can’t help myself – from time to time, I’ve just gotta let off steam.

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