I was at a disadvantage when I saw this film: I was alone, watching a screener at home for this feature story. It was funny, but this is a film to see in a crowd, where the exuberance of an audience becomes a part of the experience. And this homegrown film is made for Seattle audiences, a horror movie with gay heroes, a Iranian-American leading lady and a farcical look at the of the post-9/11 world of culture wars, religious hysteria, anti-Islamic paranoia and patriotic rhetoric used to justify all manner of behavior. "Haven't you ever seen a zombie movie?!!" asks the exasperated teenage son of an insolent neo-con preparing to torture a confession from the college girl next door. Apparently not, but he has seen plenty of what passes for news on the 24-hour spin cycle, where talking heads conflate opinion as fact and where the loudest voice is the winner by default. It's easy to pick the most likely to survive from the ever-shrinking pool of non-infected; they're the ones who are aghast at those pockets of militarist patriots and Christian extremists who refuse to let the facts confuse the certainty of their position (It's Armageddon and only the sinners are struck down! It's a terrorist plot by a Muslim fundamentalist! They hate us for our freedom!) or the ludicrousness of the distractions from the crisis at hand (because vengeance is more fun than prevention).
There's no style and no real sensibility beyond the easy targets and the satire is executed as farce, which basically means none of the characters are developed much beyond the basic type. It looks professional without actually looking distinctive (good or bad) in any way. The style is all in the spirited and colorful performances (which are surprisingly good in parts and effective throughout), the humor (it is awfully funny) and the special effects, which are executed with a creative professionalism between Hollywood gloss and "The Evil Dead" ingenuity. But more importantly, for all the spoofing of political rhetoric ("Some of us have to give our rights to remain safe," one neighbor blithely explains as he turns his basement into a detention center to torture a confession from the college girl next door), no one stops to make a speech or debate the issues. The audience can take it as they will, or just sit back to enjoy the gory spectacle of Port Gamble turned into a zombie picnic ground.
ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction SIFF Cinema, 9:15 p.m. Tues., June 2. Kirkland Performance Center, 10 p.m. Thurs., June 4