First posted by Little White Lies
George A. Romero may famously have kickstarted the modern cinematic zombie with his ground-breaking, Pennsylvania-set Night of the Living Dead (1968), but these days, when it comes to undead armageddon, we’re not in Pittsburgh any more.
New Zealand has its Braindead, Japan its Wild Zero, Versus and countless others, Australia its Undead, England its Shaun of the Dead (and more recently Cockneys Vs Zombies), Pakistan its Hell’s Ground, Norway its Dead Snow, Cuba its Juan of the Dead, Taiwan its Zombie 108 – and now Holland brings us Kill Zombie! (aka Zombibi). Indeed, this feature from co-directors Martijn Smits and Erwin van den Eshof is just the latest of many national collisions between Romero-style zombie outbreaks and crazy comedy, by now a thoroughly conventionalised exercise in genre-crossing where the only kind of individual identity on offer comes from the odd splash of local colour – in this case, the spectacle of Amsterdam-West reduced to apocalyptic pandemonium, as well as a vision of Dutch multiculturalism working (and playing).
After getting into a fight, Moroccan brothers Aziz (Yahya Gaier) and Mo (Mimoun Ouled Radi) and bumbling Surinamese thugs Jeffrey (Sergio Hasselbaink) and Nolan (Uriah Arnhem) are locked up overnight in a police station with bank worker Joris (Noel Deelen), and wake to find their borough overrun by infected flesh-eaters. Aziz heads off with kickass policewoman Kim (Gigi Ravelli) on a romantic quest to rescue his girlfriend-of-one-day Tess from the office tower that is the epicentre of the outbreak, while the others go to empty the safes at Joris’ bank – but soon all will come together on this fool’s errand, taking on the Netherlands’ banking and business sectors with the never-say-die spirit of the nation’s polyethnic underclass.
Kill Zombie! is energetic, pacy and often surreally broad, with plenty of gross-out, green-tinged gore and even an appearance from popular Dutch singer Ben Saunders to emulate the better known celebrity cameo in Zombieland. That, however, is part of the problem. Everything here, from the combat presented as a score-barred video game to the cartoonish split screens to the literal ‘boss’ fight at the end, comes with a vibrancy that always seems second-hand, and also somewhat degraded. When Jeffrey finally gets his hands on a giant rotary machine gun, he cannot help uttering the phrase, “Say hello to my little friend,” only to be taken to task by Mo with the words “It’s so old to quote Scarface” – yet Mo will latter prove unable himself to resist citing the same line from De Palma’s film (significantly also a tale of migration and assimilation). It is as though Zombie Kill! has been infected by its own undead rot, and is just shuffling, however self-consciously, through genre routines that never really seem fresh or fully alive. So when zombies go Dutch, the results are fun enough, but hardly extend the genre’s boundaries.
© Anton Bitel