“Don’t let the love of your life leave you for a damned Gringo. Come and see us, and I guarantee you that we’ll save your life. United Parapsychologists Of America. Esoteric jobs, spiritual cleansing, taxes and immigration papers…”
If ever there was a movie that should have fired its marketing department, it’s Zombie Farm. If you read any of the descriptions or look at the cover art, you are expecting this to be one of thousands of movies that offer up gritty images, plenty of gore, and a tried and true, but getting tired formula. Nothing can be further from the truth. Zombie Farm isn’t any of those things. And I couldn’t be happier that that’s the case. Don’t judge this one by its cover, or you’re likely to miss out on a good time.
Pilar Franco (Catano) is a young freelance filmmaker who is trying to do something that showcases an aspect of Hispanic culture. She’s about out of ideas until she sees a commercial on a Spanish television station. The ad is for United Parapsychologists of America. It’s an over-the-top display by Roque (Montesinos). He’s in a wig and jumping around like a leftover from an old Crazy Eddie commercial. She decides to visit the occult practitioner. Roque has another customer. Ana Marie (Munoz) is being abused by her husband Antonio (Khoton). She wants a potion that will stop him from hurting her. Roque feels bad for the girl and fesses up that he’s a fake and suggests she find real help. Turns out the con artist has a bit of a heart. Pilar decides to do a film on the man and his business, but the documentary gets sidetracked when Ana Marie shows up again. This time her husband is more than abusive. He’s a zombie. Ana Marie had gone to a real Voodoo practitioner, Mana Luna (Rowinsky) who happens to be turning clients and their kin into zombies to be sold as slave labor. Now the three of them are on the run trying to escape the clutches of the pursuing zombies and the curse of Mana Luna.
This is absolutely a low-budget film that comes with all of the limitations you might expect. The production values are often weak, and the locations are whatever they could grab at the time. But when was the last time you had some fun with your low-budget horror film? This one plays like a Cheech and Chong routine without the drug references. There’s an exploration, some might tend to call it exploitation, of Latino culture here, but it’s all tongue-in-cheek. Roberto Montesinos absolutely steals the show as the con artist Roque. He’s a live cannon throughout the film and provides the movie’s abundant energy and charm. Even when he’s stripped away from the con persona, he lights up the movie at every turn. He shares good chemistry with Adriana Catano as Pilar. Catano doesn’t have the experience, and it shows, but she does best when she’s not trying so hard. Those are the moments when she offers the best performances. She can act with her eyes, which is a trait I am always attracted to. Eduardo Ibarrola has a wonderful part as Roque’s landlord who doesn’t really like the guy but ends up trying to help the group when the zombies begin to arrive. He tries his best to remain disinterested but gets drawn in with some clever devices.
The movie is rough; don’t expect a very polished effort here. The script has too many awkward moments where even the actors appear to be looking at the camera and shrugging their shoulders. The edits are particularly rough. I’ve seen better with a pair of safety scissors and a roll of Scotch tape. Yet the filmmakers take these limitations in stride. They pass with a wink and a nod, and the movie merely invites you to get in on the joke. Low-budget is always better when the participants have some fun and invite the audience in instead of trying to be too serious and keep us at a distance. I guess you could call this a friendly film. Don’t look for a ton of scares. The zombie makeup is quite minimalistic. The movie never really enters into very terrifying territory, but I was absolutely fine with that. Writer/director Roberto Islas surrounded himself with a clever cast that was able to roll with the punches. It’s an entertaining piece that is really worth a quick look. Just don’t expect to be all that frightened. You may, however, get in a few genuine laughs.
Zombie Farm is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. For a low-budget production the film looks about what I expected. I was disappointed a bit with what often appears to be a soft focus, however. Black levels are really only fair.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 is a bit minimalistic as well. Dialog works fine. There is a muddiness to background sounds. It’s not an aggressive mix, but there are some clever ambients that allow you to immerse yourself into the action.
Behind The Scenes: (16:53) This feature was made for a Spanish television station. There’s a bit too much hype here to be very informative. The cast and crew do provide some insight. It’s plagued by a television identification bug in the lower right and loud music.
The movie is notable for being shot in both English and Spanish with the same cast. Each scene was done in both languages, so the cast had to be bi-lingual. It’s a pretty cool idea that demonstrates Islas’s understanding of having to break the English market while still providing something genuine for the Spanish one. Dubbing never really quite works out and subtitles are tedious, particularly when one is trying to absorb the nuances of a film. Not that this film is very nuanced. I think you’ll be pleased with what you see, if you decide to give it a chance. I could have spent an entire review calling attention to the film’s flaws. There are quite a few. But, hey, “nobody’s perfect”.