Zombies of Mass Destruction: A Political Zomedy
Is there anything more delightful than a well-done zombie film? How about a well-done zombie film with an obvious 9/11 parallel and smart, witty female, minority, and gay protagonists? All this and more can be yours with Zombies of Mass Destruction, which is as much social satire and metaphor as a gory, jolly, bloody good undead time.
Zombies of Mass Destruction is set in idyllic Port Gamble, Washington, on the date of September 25th, 2003. The main characters are quickly introduced with few subtle nuances, since the film is as much about stereotypes as politics and zombies, and relies heavily on quick and dirty celluloid tropes. This isn't done to quickly get a point across in a white hat/black hat sense, but to poke gentle fun at the extremes of behavior in the age of the culture wars. The living dead take over Port Gamble as the apparent result of a terrorist attack; a swarthy, turbaned, Muslim man shown on a televised news broadcast claims credit for the zombie plague.
The town reverend hates everyone a stereotypically cinematic man of the church is expected to hate (“Unitarians, gays, and pro-choicers”) and has the town mayor on his side. There's an _au natural _quasi-hippie environmentalist who abhors violence (referred to as a “godless Jezebel” by the reverend), the jingoistic flag-waving Republican who is suspicious of and hateful to anyone perceived to be the Other, and the funny-accented, dark-skinned Iranian man who runs a restaurant in town. In between this stock character parade are the protagonists: Frida, the daughter of the Iranian restaurant owner, and Tom and Lance, a gay couple visiting Port Gamble to inform Tom's mother that he is homosexual.
Frida, Tom, and Lance are given more character shading than the other roles in the film. Frida, in particular, is smart, witty, and not the usual “last girl standing.” She shuts down her ignorant boyfriend when he, like most of the townspeople, mistakes her cultural identity as Iraqi rather than Iranian by cleverly telling him, “There's Norway you're getting into these panties.” (One particular detail that also struck me was the fact that she took off her high-heeled shoes to run once the zombies began swarming the town, hence avoiding any eye-rolling “watch the silly girl fall down and twist her ankle” moments.) Tom and Lance are also quick-witted and resourceful in fending off masses of attacking zombies (including Tom's own mother), and improvise well with available zombie-killing tools.
Meanwhile, the town reverend is ecstatic at the idea of Armageddon approaching, and is convinced the “war” will be won because “history's greatest zombie is on our side.” (As someone whose favorite exclamation of surprise is “Sweet Zombie Jesus!” this had me nearly in tears.) Taking sanctuary from the zombies in the town church, the reverend, the mayor, the hippie environmentalist, Tom, Lance, and various town churchgoers find themselves at odds politically and spiritually in a fine satire of the last eight years.
Without giving too much away, the film ends in a delightfully near-sacrilegious parody of the news footage Americans will recall seeing post-9/11: hand-drawn posters of memorials and missing loved ones and sales of tacky “I Remember” t-shirts. In a televised press conference, the remaining citizens of Port Gamble are admonished to remain “vigilant” and “report suspicious behavior.” Perhaps the over-the-top political parody combined with the stringy, graphic gore of the undead is not to everyone's taste. As a lifelong zombie fan, however, I was thrilled with the film's sympathetic, if somewhat humorous, portrayals of young minority women and gay couples.