Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jean Claude The Gumming Zombie (2009)

If you’re a zombie fan, you’ve no doubt asked yourself how a zombie could survive if he or she had no teeth. How would they be able to rip apart their prey without some sharp canines? How would they be able to chomp down on some delectable brains without teeth? Well, the short low-budget film Jean Claude The Gumming Zombie seeks to find out how a poor, toothless zombie could survive the apocalypse. It’s too bad it does so in such a dull way.

Jean Claude is a French zombie that can’t eat flesh because he doesn’t have teeth. He does around gumming people because he can’t bite. A ’50′s, Leave-It-To-Beaver type freaky family feels sorry for Jean Claude and take him into their home as a pet. Soon, Dad is collecting fresh body parts for him, Mom is making him “nummy” human blood shakes and young Timmy is taking him to show and tell.

I really thought this would be a fun, kitschy zombie short along the lines of the great Fido. Unfortunately, it has an inconsistent storyline with no clear plot, which makes watching this film more annoying than entertaining. The story never has a place to go, instead jumping from one tedious tableau to another. None of the gags were ever very funny, and had me rolling my eyes or checking my watch rather than inciting a giggle or even a smile. This is obviously supposed to be a horror comedy but the “jokes” were tiresome and have already been done in other movies much better.

While lack of a cohesive, interesting story is a major issue, there were many other problems with the film. One of the most glaring besides the lack of story was the use of “green screen” throughout the movie. The main actors’ performances were captured first in front of a “green screen” and then the background of these scenes (mostly city streets and shuffling zombies) was added in later. Ugh, this looked absolutely horrible and distracted a lot from the film (not that there was much going on to be distracted from). I don’t know if this was done due to budgetary constraints or maybe because of aesthetic/artistic preference (if that is the case, someone needs their eyes checked!), but using an actual location where all the actors, both zombie and human, were shot at the same time would have certainly benefited the film much more than the grainy and fuzzy background. Also baffling was the use of CGI for a quick scene where a grandmother is cooking some breakfast. They actually chose to use CGI for the fire on the stove and the smoke coming off the pan. Again, this looked horrible and I don’t have a clue why the filmmakers chose to do this for such a trivial scene when they could have just simply filming the actual flame and smoke. And WTF was up with that fart cloud at the end of the film when the dad was performing black magic (one of his screwed up spells is cause of the zombies, apparently)?? Seriously, I did not get what the hell that cloud CGI was supposed to be…

The only positives in this short film were the performances from some of the actors. Kyle Znamenak was amazing as Jean Claude, both as the zombie and as his pre-zombie persona. As a zombie, he was perfect as the sad, shuffling and meloncholy Jean Claude. As his former self he was completely different – young, virile and sexy! Another standout performance came from one of the youngest actors in the film, Matthew Hemminger as Timmy. He was extremely natural on-screen, charming us even when he is repeatedly stabbing Jean Claude in the leg for entertainment. I was less enthused about the over-the-top acting from Joseph O’Brien and Patricia Valestin as the parents, but I think the script might be to blame for their overzealous performances.

As far as indie zombie flicks go, this film was hard to sit through and you can do much better. Jean Claude The Gumming Zombie just lacks cohesion and a solid storyline to make it any good. Add to that the horrible effects and lame gags and it becomes a chore to sit through, even when it is a short. I hate to bash independent filmmakers because I know all the hard work that goes into making a film on a shoestring budget, but Jean Claude The Gumming Zombie is just a bad, unfunny version of Fido.

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