Small Town Decay
“Zombies of Mass Destruction” is a limb-shucking, eye-gouging hoot, full of both disemboweled stomachs and belly laughs. However, the most hysterical guffaw in Kevin Hamedani’s potent gore ‘n giggles hybrid – which has played at festivals ranging from SIFF to Philly QFest – is its unlikely setting.
Ever been to Port Gamble? Nestled on the Olympic Peninsula near Seattle, it’s a Ward Cleaver wet dream – and the backdrop for “Zombies of Mass Destruction.” Full of immaculately painted, 19th-century homes and perfectly trimmed lawns, the quaint mill town is a Normal Rockwell painting come to pristine life.
In a subversive stroke of genius, Hamedani literally spackles this picturesque historical landmark with crimson-red viscera. It’s the most amazing small-town transformation since “Blue Velvet,” where bluebirds chirped and smiling firemen waved from their shiny red trucks…before Frank Booth arrived to turn everything into supremely depraved s**t.
“Zombies of Mass Destruction” follows Freda, an Iranian-American college babe reluctantly living with her overprotective, restaurant-owning father. We’re also introduced to a closeted gay yuppie visiting his mother, whose blatant bigotry is the only thing more hideous than her flaming-orange hair. Hamedani throws in more broad stereotypes, including a long-winded, small-minded preacher and a paranoid, survivalist redneck.
Complex characters, however, aren’t crucial to Hamedani’s surprisingly ambitious vision, which examines the suspicious, hyper-vigilant climate created by 9/11. When an unexplained plague unleashes flailing, flesh-chewing ghouls to chow down on the living, the media assumes a Middle East terrorist attack is to blame. The wild-eyed redneck buys into the hype, suspecting that Freda is somehow behind the chaos. The preacher rationalizes his town’s zombie infestation as God’s wrath against homosexuals. What results from all this paranoid finger pointing is a hysterical satire that’s as much “Dr. Strangelove” as it is “Evil Dead.”
The film’s biting political punch, however, doesn’t dilute its gleeful geysers of grue. In fact, as in the best gore flicks, its wicked humor compliments the carnage. Meanwhile, Hamedani’s expert timing prompts several genuinely startling shocks. In one scene, a sincere, love-struck stoner meets with jarring, face-peeling misfortune, while another inspired moment serves up eyeballs-as-appetizers. Meanwhile, a little girl…well, hell – I can’t begin to spoil the truly twisted turn of events.
In the press notes for “Zombies of Mass Destruction,” Iranian American Hamedani admits that after 9/11, people eyed him differently. This very real brush with discrimination lends a personal touch to the politics. One can feel a message coming across all the flesh-piercing shotgun blasts and multicolored bodily drainage. As in George Romero’s “Dead” films, such serious subtext delivers a deeper, more venomous bite than anything inflicted by the rabid, undead face-eaters.