I’m going to go ahead and get right to it because every diehard zombie fan is focusing on the big undead elephant in the room. So let’s deal with that right away, because there’s a lot more to this film than what will be undoubtedly the most debated point of this film. That’s right folks. I’m referring to talking, thinking zombies.
I don’t like talking zombies. There. I’ve said it. Zombies for me are re-animated corpses who have come back to feed on the flesh of the living. They are mindless, thoughtless creatures, and hint towards a certain and coming apocalypse. Nonetheless I approached this film with an open mind and willingness to hear out what the director, David Gebroe, had to say.
Gebroe takes a fresh approach to the zombie genre, yet ultimately I feel he stays true to the monster. No, it’s not the classic model you might expect, but basically on screen we are watching the transformation of Danny from man to monster, and seeing how far his bride will go to stay with him. It’s not an instantaneous transformation, and honestly the whole zombie debate becomes nullified when we allow ourselves to hear what Gebroe has to say. And what Gebroe does with this film is quite amazing. He tells a great story, something that is near to non-existent in the gore and flesh-eating world of zombies. And it’s the story that holds this film together.
The premise of the film is quite simple. Danny, played by Graham Sibley, and Denise, played by Tracy Coogan is a young newlywed couple who are absolutely and utterly head over heels about each other. They have plans for a wonderful life together in Portugal and find their plans cut short by circumstance, visa vie an attack by a zombie.
The film starts with them bursting from a beautiful church and racing towards their car like two kids who have just robbed their first bank. Psychobilly rock n’ roll feeds the frantic euphoria in the air for these newlyweds and we are soon at Uncle Danny’s house down on the Jersey shore.
As in any horror film, all good things must come to a quick end, and so they do here. A lone zombie, who mysteriously emerges from the ocean, attacks Danny. The zombie pukes blood in Danny’s mouth thus killing our young groom. Danny emerges from his untimely demise in a less than stellar scene at the local hospital.
Gebroe builds the zombification process rather well and maintains suspense throughout. You never stop asking yourself if Danny is going to take a bite out of his new wife, or manage to stay true to his undying love for her, and only victimize everyone else around them. There were several light and humorous moments in the film, which keeps the film from becoming too dramatic, and supply us with some genuine laughs. I couldn’t help myself but to pause and backup the part where a blood soaked Danny, who has just finished snacking on yet another helpless victim, yells at his wife in his own defense. “All I’m trying to do is kill as few people as possible before I get on the plane tomorrow!”
Zombie Honeymoon is a story of love and loss, and one that is played out quite effectively, emotionally, and I might even stretch to say intelligently. Tracy Coogan is easily the all-star of the cast, and Sibley does a decent job to keep up with her. Together they are able to deliver a great story and believable characters. I thought these two had great on screen chemistry, which is a pretty rare thing in horror. While the dialogue and writing is great for these two main actors, it is completely lackluster for the rest of the cast. As a matter of fact all other acting is downright horrible, if not despicable.
You can tell the director was focused on telling Danny and Denise’s story, and as well as he should be. As it turns out, this film is based on a real life couple of the same name; Gebroe’s sister Denise, and her late husband Danny. The real Danny and Denise met through a mutual passion for Psychobilly rock n’ roll, exemplified by the great Reverend Horton Heat. The real Danny was a surfer living in Germany, and the real Denise lived in Jersey. They met, were married, and like our film characters, had plans to move to Portugal, where the waves are nothing less than fantastic. They saved cash relentlessly, and soon after securing the money to do so, Denise quit her job. Roughly a week later Danny died in a surfing accident. This film is David Gebroe’s tribute to his sister, and her strength in the face of such devastation.
Lest you become afraid that all the focus on creating a dramatic love story should ruin the idea that this is still a zombie film, let me assure you that the gore factor is not ignored or underemphasized. Taking into consideration the budget constraints of the film, the FX team does a great job creating some blood soaked; gut eating, flesh tearing moments. And I tip my hat to the sound department, who did a standout job “fleshing” those graphic moments out. The gut munching sound effects are enough to make the squeamish amongst you wriggle in your seats.
Overall, Gebroe manages to effectively put a zombie twist on a tragic story. Instead of building a romantic drama around zombies, he puts the zombie film inside the framework of a romantic story, and laces it with some dark comedy. And it somehow works. There’s no doubt many spotty holes in the filmmaking process. The poor acting by all supporting cast members was certainly a turn off that would have easily led me to eject the film early if I wasn’t pulled into the story so much. However, as a first feature length stab in the genre, Gebroe does a decent job, and I’ll be interested in seeing what he does next.