Director: Francesco Picone
Writers: Francesco Picone, Francesco Picone (story)
Stars: Aaron Stielstra, Michael Segal, Marius Bizau
Marco Ristori and Luca Boni appear to consider themselves modern day successors to Lucio Fulci, the Italian maestro behind zombie classics such as The Beyond, City of the Living Dead and The House By the Cemetery. Unfortunately, their work to date – films such as Eaters and Apocalypse Z – has more in common with the output of workaday hacks such as Bruno Mattei and Andrea Bianchi. The main problem with their films isn’t the cheapness (and they’re certainly cheap) and it isn’t the technical deficiencies (and there are certainly technical deficiencies); it’s the sheer derivative nature of the plots. In recent years they’ve also moved into producing, putting together the likes of Phantasmagoria and the upcoming The Blind King. For Age of the Dead – which was directed by Francesco Picone – they also joined forces with the notorious Uwe Boll, a German producer who seems to have modeled himself on former Empire head honcho Charles Band and with whom they also worked on Apocalypse Z and Zombie Massacre 2: Reich of the Dead.
The plot is essentially a number of random elements lifted from The Walking Dead and thrown together into a semi-workable narrative. Following a zombie outbreak a pregnant woman (Roberta Sparta) and her boyfriend (Marius Bizau) survive by driving through the countryside and fending off occasional attacks by the undead (see The Walking Dead, Series 1). They argue about whether to try and settle down or to keep on moving (see The Walking Dead, Series 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) before running into further trouble when they cross paths with the militaristic leader (Aaron Stielstra) of another group of survivors (see The Walking Dead, Series 3). This dude is carrying out experiments on a mysterious girl who might or might not be a zombie and has a loathing of vegetable soup. That’s about it.
The trouble is that there’s absolutely nothing whatsoever in here that hasn’t been seen before. Fulci might have been making rip-off’s of Dawn of the Dead, but his films were imbued with a leftfield individuality which allowed them to stand as works in their own right. Age of the Dead, on the other hand, is almost indistinguishable from the numerous other zombie films which are flooding Netflix at the moment. The best of these films are those which find a novel way to tell their story and put a degree of effort into drawing up interesting characters (The Battery, Harold’s Going Stiff) but this does neither. Technically, it’s not bad: the cinematography is adequate; Picone’s direction is fine (he actually has the makings of a better director than any of the producers); and the acting is, well, variable (Stielstra and Bizau are good, everyone else is wanting). But there’s only so much interest you can generate when you’re re-treading very old ground.