It’s fuc*ing difficult to make a movie, especially when you have no budget. This shouldn’t come as news to anyone, yet with the deluge of quality content on streaming platforms, one tends to forget how much talent, effort, and money goes into each and every production.
Filmmaker Sean Bingham didn’t forget, as he keeps the DIY spirit alive with Zombacter: Center City Contagion. It is by no means a “good movie,” but one that serves as a stark reminder that it’s still possible to bring your vision to life, even when you lack the financial means to do so as fluidly and glossily as the big guns out there.
See, Bingham – a geologist by trade – wrote a book, which shares the same title as the film, and must’ve dreamed of turning his written words into silver-screen images. I haven’t read the book, but judging by the film, which he wrote, produced, and directed, I can guess that Bingham is not exactly Nabokov.
He’s certainly no Edgar Wright, Stuart Gordon, or Sam Raimi. And, you know what, that’s okay. Not everyone is destined to be the Next Big Thing. Bingham so believed in his vision that he assembled a cast and crew, and went out there and did it (in Oklahoma, I think) – and managed to pull off a halfway-decent zombie flick in the process. Respect.
“…it’s up to Northrop and the homeless Bill Santini to outrun the undead and create a vaccine.”
The plot in a nutshell: Dr. Jake Northrop (Eric Starkey) is on the brink of creating artificial intelligence using rabbits as test subjects (don’t ask), but he is continuously discouraged by his faculty superiors. “Just make sure that bacteria of yours is not a problem,” he is finally told, “and you’ll have what you need.”
Bacteria, of course, ends up being a problem when a lab assistant gets bitten by a rabbit. Northrop kills the culprit with a shovel – but it’s too late, the virus spreads rapidly through the city, and now it’s up to Northrop and the homeless Bill Santini (Doug Van Liew) to outrun the undead and create a vaccine.
Starkey and Van Liew develop a semblance of a quippy rapport as the film progresses. There’s a nifty attack on an emergency room and a close escape from a zombie-infested building. A gruesome brain autopsy is the absolute highlight of the film (“Ah yeah… that’s my bacteria all right…”).
Bingham intermittently displays moments of real wit. “You’re gonna give the mad scientist your gun?” a character exclaims. My favorite bit may be the one where a couple of stark-raving zombies attacking each other morph into a playfully fighting young couple with a blink of a drunken eye.
Get past the awkward acting, the sound mixing issues, the choppy editing, the murky visuals, the fact that it takes forever for the film to get going, and that it just ends on a half-note, and you may have some fun with Zombacter: Center City Contagion, especially if you’re a hardcore zombie fan. The professional critic in me is screaming as I write this, but I couldn’t help but be charmed by Bingham’s palpable passion, and hence am awarding the film a lil’ extra credit.
"…I couldn’t help but be charmed by Bingham’s palpable passion..."