Just now getting a DVD release (through Synapse Films), 2008's Reel Zombies is a feature mockumentary with a welcome twist: Its filmmakers are poking fun at themselves, acknowledging how terrible their previous two (real) movies were. The shot-on-video "epics" in question are 2003's Zombie Night and its 2006 sequel. The concept behind Reel Zombies is that co-directors David J. Francis and Mike Masters, playing themselves, are not only shooting Zombie Night 3, but doing so during an actual undead apocalypse.
Masters says early on that "any idiot" with a camera can make a feature nowadays. He's 100-percent correct, and serves up clips from the played-straight pair of Zombie Nights as examples. As if to atone for their sins, he and Francis have undertaken a self-parodic route — and likely have done the world a favor — by documenting a fake Zombie Night 3 instead of actually making the trilogy-capper.
Reel Zombies is a good idea, weakly executed. One of the main problems is that the idea wears out any welcome all too quickly. It feels entirely ad-libbed, but wit is no one's strong point; I only laughed once, when a crew member says defensively, "I did a Finger Eleven video!" Guess you had to be there.
Somehow even worse is another directorial tag-teamer, Chris W. Freeman and Justin Jones' Sorority Party Massacre. Ostensibly a tribute/spoof of the 1980s trash-horror subgenre of slumber parties and/or sorority massacres organized by Roger Corman, the flick sends a hotheaded, on-suspension detective (Tom Downey, who also produced) to the secluded Grizzly Cove to look for the missing daughter of his captain (former TV Hercules Kevin Sorbo, our lone bright point).
The girl was headed to Sigma Phi Pi's sorority elections, but sprayed with acid by a requisite madman before she could get there. Even if she had made it, she may not have survived, as the half-dozen of principal players is thinned considerably as this Party limps toward an excruciating near two hours.
I don't know whether to be aggravated more by its musk of misogyny or its idea of comedy, which includes a just-because fart by a fat man and the dreaded "record scratch" sound effect as a punch line. Freeman and Jones way overdo the music-video flourishes, as if hyperactivity is an acceptable substitute for substance. The final shot depicts our detective hero shoving a guy's head in a toilet; unfortunately, viewers will know how the victim feels. — Rod Lott
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