I've recently reviewed several zombie movies and quite a few debut features. Zombie Transfusion (original title Automaton Transfusion) fuses the two, being both a zombie movie and Steven C. Miller's debut feature. With a high school setting, it lowers the age of the traditional zombie flick and plays on the different cliques in the school setup. It begins when most of the school is going to a party hosted by the 'jocks' but a trio of friends have other ideas and decide to head into town to a small rock club.
A prologue in a morgue has already established that the dead are returning to life and are hungry for human flesh but it takes our 'heroes' a while to notice that something is wrong as the freeway is completely empty during rush hour, the radio stations aren't working and the town is deserted. When they arrive, they are chased into the club by a mass of bloodthirsty undead ghouls and, after barricading themselves in, that the owner is the only person there and that those who were there were eaten.
Meanwhile, at the party, the virus has spread and Chris' girlfriend Jackie is just about the only one left. The two stories dovetail and the lads pick up Jackie and decide to try and make it to the school as it's the most likely place to have survivors. What follows is a bloody battle for their lives in which they'll discover how and why the whole outbreak began.
Steven C. Miller is obviously a very ambitious filmmaker, with this as the first part in a planned trilogy - the sequel is already in production and this finishes with 'To Be Continued' so there is a lot riding on this film. He shows that he is a talent to be reckoned with and has a good grasp of the genre, even throwing in an in-joke for fans, with Scott picking up a chain saw and saying 'Ash'd be so proud' and the bartender telling the boys that 'you have to shoot them in the head'. The zombies are clearly more like the infected in 28 Days Later than the traditional lumbering Romero-esque ghoul as they are fleet of foot, smart and deadly - all in all a scary proposition.
Sadly the film doesn't quite gel as the action doesn't follow out trio of plucky metal heads long enough and confuses things by not sticking with them by drifting to the party in the country and the spreading of the virus through suburbia. However, it is an accomplished and very well executed film with decent performances by the principle cast and excellent zombie and gore effects. The IMDb says it had a $50,000 budget and, for a film with that level of financing, it looks extremely good. Only time will tell how good Miller really is and whether this zombie trilogy is any good, but it's off to a promising start with this instalment.
I'm someone who likes to hear from filmmakers, especially those making their debut, so it's a shame that there is no interview or commentary and the disc only comes with a trailer.
Obviously shot in HD DV, Zombie Transfusion has all the telltale signs of HD: slight surface graining and a lack of dynamic range when it comes from moving from light to dark (and vice versa) quickly. However, just as this wasn't a problem for Danny Boyle in his contemporary classic, it's isn't much of an issue here. The frenetic pacing excuses the slight noise which even adds to the sense of urgency in the tensest scenes.
The special effects make-up and prosthetics are excellent and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a degree of CGI involved - if there was I didn't spot it, which is always a good sign.
Sadly the disc only comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack as the film would really have benefited with a surround track. However, for a modestly budgeted film, the track is very clear and has a variety of punk and metal music that fits with the characters. The odd word is a little indistinct but nothing to spoil your enjoyment and there are English HoH subtitles should you need them.
There have been several films recently where the DVD title differs from the original title and, in this case, I think they've actually improved it to one that is more catchy and relevant to the subject matter. Steven C. Miller proves himself a skilled filmmaker who can make the most of a smallish budget and I look forward to seeing Automaton Transfusion: Contingency next year.
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