Director Rene Perez knows and understands low-budget horror films, after directing quite a few and let alone three so far in 2015, such as Little Red Riding Hood and Play with Dolls, he unleashed The Burning Dead, starring the incredible Danny Trejo, in a tale of volcano erupting with flesh-hungry zombies with a twist – lava zombies. The original title gave a clear indication of the nature of the movie; simply called Volcano Zombies, but seems similar to The Walking Dead gives way for anything to latch onto one’s film too.
The plot fairly straight-forward, a rumbling volcano has prompted the evacuation of everyone in the area, and a sheriff (Thomas Downey) must ensure all remove themselves from the area, of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of course issues arise and his divided family have yet to respond to the calls. His family has their own problems, his wife Mindy (Moniqua Plante), daughter Nicole (Nicole Cummins) and her boyfriend Ryan (Kevin Norman) won’t flee without her estranged father Ben (Robert F. Lyons). But wait there’s more subplots, prior to explosion the appearance from Night Wolf (Trejo) telling a story to a group of the evil spirits erupting and killing cannibals of the infamous Donner Party from 1846, originally weird, but it is low budget horror, yet should be an excuse to venture that far off the beaten trail. However, prior the eruption, the movie provides an unnecessary need of T&A for the oddest and hottest topless scene featuring nature photographer, Jenny Lin, and for her website, sounds like positive reason to do something thoroughly unusual and crazy. Soon enough the eruption occurs and the onset of the lava and the lava-filled zombies, begin terrorizing the landscape, while the comic relief, though pouring everyone, comes from volcanologists Dr. Stevens and Eve (Kyle T. Heffner and Julia Lehman, respectively). A lucky aspect of the movie comes from the cast understanding the core fundamentals of horror films, since most cast have starred in the genre films, and many of them fall directly in the grouping of low budget horror.
If this sounds like a Syfy Channel creation, you guessed wrong, rather it comes from Uncork’d Entertainment, and features a tad more gore and nudity than the normal graphic blood explosion from Sharknado films. The dialogue overwhelms the film, for a creation like this, the audience demands a forest filed with lava zombies feeding on the campers and townsfolks, for unknown reasons. Perhaps the reason is a backlash to the environmental encroachment, the taking of native lands; nevertheless, no reason is really given and not needed. Afterall a volcano eruption feels like a disaster movie, and not in the manner you think, rather a group tries to flee the doom, and survive the waves of lava, and other troubles such as zombies.
A silly script does exist sometimes in zombies film productions, but this does not sink this film, rather the special effects do that fairly well, extremely poor, from the explosion spewing mountain to the oozing lava, neither have the believability to pass the basic tests of convincing the audience. The feeding frenzy of zombies falls a bit, the characters scream in pain the burns don’t appear real enough nor match correctly to the attack. The CGI work needs an overhaul, the cheesy effects tiresome, and the acting feels a bit of a Family Channel, loony conceptual thinking and remarks and the multiple subplots occurring at once. Especially when Mindy goes after her father up on the mountain, sounding familiar to another movie, if you guess Dante’s Peak you’re correct. Many horror fans, wish filmmakers return to the practical effects, and less of the CGI, and sadly unsure if the old style would work better in the movie.
An independent low budget zombie feature film contains rules, like all films, except herein the focus on knowing one’s budget for example if a known star is going to chomp on the budget by a lot, then can one still complete the film. Then design the effects to fit the screenplay and create tension, if not change the script a rewrite is cheaper than the bombed picture, if your plan is for massive chaos that do it all the way and not halfway the audience will respect it. Otherwise keep it small; confine focus on characters hence creates tension and safe the monsters to the end, as one ratchets the film up for everyone. The Burning Dead likely be making rounds on Chiller and Syfy, minus the crazy T&A scene, for late night idle fun, then again maybe they’ll pass on it too.
This review originally posted on the Rogue Cinema’s site in August 2-15 and achieved a view count of 1,806.
IMDB Rating: 2.2/10
Baron’s Rating: 2.0/10