Jimmy Donnellan, from Cultured Vultures had a chance to watch the Danny Trejo zombie flick The Burning Dead and had more than a few choice words to say about it…
Having already covered The Burning Dead back when it was called Volcano Zombies, I was very interested in seeing if the finished product was as bad as it looked in the trailers. I was not disappointed.
To try to explain the plot of The Burning Dead would be like trying to explain trigonometry to a dog: at no point does it even attempt to make the vaguest bit of sense, expecting you to shrug off every single plot hole because zombies, right? It’s films like these which are contributing to everyone getting damn tired of our undead friends.
Danny Trejo, a man obsessed with trying to ruin his career, takes top billing but only shows up to mumble incoherently about a poorly-explained curse, wear a big coat and pretend to be a Cherokee despite being very Mexican. The supporting cast is a who’s who of tired cliches: the angsty teenager with the sassy (a favourite quote of mine from the film) boyfriend, the ‘hip’ granddad who’s a badass at one point tackling a zombie off a cliff and SURVIVING, and the mother who just moans on and on and on until you kind of understand why her daughter resents her. If you thought Lori from The Walking Dead was unbearable, just wait until you experience this shrieking mess. There’s also a sheriff character who is about as layered and interesting as grout and seemingly dozens of other players that have no real place.
The zombies themselves are unbearably dumb. Maybe I was expecting too much of a film that involves the undead flying out of a volcano like Green Lantern, but the zombies in action are just as atrocious – not since Troll 2 has there been such bad monster make-up. Early in the film, we are introduced to zombies that, for all intents and purposes, look exactly the same as regular people. One of them even smiles and uses tools, clearly setting himself up as the Big Bad but later turns up as just another zombie. Where’s the continuity?
The Burning Dead also plays fast and loose with its own zombie rules, indicating that maybe they’ve just made it all up as they went along. This is why you don’t try to write a screenplay when you’re ten Budweisers deep, guys. Its creators obviously must have been under the influence of something strong to give zombies a burning touch while also making them invulnerable to heat and headshots. HEADSHOTS. This isn’t Return of the Living Dead, you can’t get away with that if you’re marketing yourself as a serious zombie movie.
Perhaps if the film wasn’t so relentlessly serious and instead embraced just how ridiculous it is, it might have been at least partly watchable. Instead, by employing a Terminator-lite score which loops over and over and over again as well as trying to build tension by showing various random scenes of bubbling stuff (with the prerequisite screeching of an electric guitar), The Burning Dead is just trying way too hard to be a proper film and failing spectacularly in the process.
The special effects, as you might expect, are of of an MS Paint standard. The lava looks like menacing saliva, the zombies rise as if they’ve been superimposed onto the scene and they leave in a completely hilarious way – a personal highlight is seeing them evaporate like fairies at the film’s nonsensical conclusion. Sorry for the spoilers, but I am probably saving you from a world of pain.
It’s hard to think of any redeeming qualities for this film. Even the compulsory topless scene (“I’m a photographer AND a blogger!”…what?) appears to have been shoehorned in as a way of waking up anybody who has already dozed off, but is just comes across as laughable. The ludicrousness doesn’t end there as a supposed volcano expert picks up a hot stone earlier in the film and starts bleeding. That’s…that’s not how it works. Who taught these people science?
Even for die-hard zombie fans, The Burning Dead is one to completely avoid: its brisk 82 minute running time somehow still feels feels like a real slog. Once you have finished reading this review, it might be for the best to bleach your brain and remove any trace of it from your memory so you never have the curious impulse to seek it out. It will only end in tears.