Zombie Brigade (also known as Zombie Commando) is considered by some as one of Australian’s exploitation market films, however to horror fans, it’s just another example of zombies staggering mindlessly while confusing everyone on the screen and in the audience too. Directors and writers Carmelo Musca and Barrie Pattison, present a fair story of an amusement park built on the grounds of a Vietnam Memorial Cemetery, the dead rise to take revenge. Mayor Ransom (Geoff Gibbs) – orders the destruction of a monument at the cemetery, the military dead rise, with both Australian and Vietnamese troops. The storyline dives deeper when local council members create a land dead selling off the site of long forgotten Vietnam memorial for a Japanese developer Kinoshita’s (Adam A. Wong) theme park, ‘Robot Man Land’ to entice the deal, and massive party complete with prostitution, but the undead have their own celebration planned. Accompanying Kinoshita on the trip is his personal secretary Yoshie (Khym Lam) who follows ancient customs of respect and honor when others are around, but the mood changes in private with her boss. The reason for the project is never given way, though some might speculate that the first reason is to fill the council board’s pockets achieving the rise of political power, while under the guise of bringing jobs to a vacant and dull landscape area. Therefore, the film contains, zombies, political corruption, poor morals and a measure dose of violence, sounds fine, but wait there’s more, the zombies have a vampire quality to them, and don’t appear that much different from the living. There are many missed opportunities to capitalize of the unethical behaviors, potential political slaps, and lastly sheer comical lines dot along the entire production without anyone taking advantage of them.
A good zombie flick requires many hungry hordes of zombies rampaging across the countryside, that does not exactly occur, and these zombies lack the Lucio Fulci style, in fact, they lack any true style. When a small budget film mixes with a big horror zombie ideas, now granted in 1986 the zombie fascination did not have the popularity of today, however, zombies had some mannerisms, such as The Return of the Living Dead  with those undead, starting show the speed of running, but translated into a need to feed. The back-story slowly comes to the surface about the remains at the cemetery that the Vietnamese soldiers carried a plague making them into vampires and causing more needless casualties of troops. This again was another portion of political reference overlooked by suggesting the Vietnamese, as communist troops were monsters, sucking the strength and independence of the troops, all for the collective good of all the people. Hence the zombies contain false fangs, and while the vampires are technically the undead, zombies don’t carry themselves, with luxuries, theological conflicts, and neither a posh demeanor nor thirsty bloodsucking demon.
The film takes a dramatic turn in the last 40-minutes of the film, local aboriginal hero, Jimmy (John Moore (Pitch Black )) battles the undead with Yoshie and uses the assistance of his Uncle Charlie (Michael Fuller), an aboriginal elder, calling upon dead ancestors to summon ghosts and other military zombies into battle, using his magical skills. The survivors also realize the perimeter contains mines, a shocking item as zombies keep those devices nearby and keep repressive memories of how they work properly. This aspect is curiously interesting, as in the films Land of the Dead  and Shaun of the Dead , the zombies seem to remember simple tasks, but this happens in 1986 not 2005. In addition, the zombie vampires do return to the darkness, to escape the light, obviously the blending of two distant creatures in the horror genre, but the most stand in sequence, a high-speed chase bringing thrilling moments to a yawn.
An extremely tight budget, and perhaps lack of local support doomed the script, and the project, for first time horror directors, and reducing the film to a B-Movie, yet never gives up as it continues to strive ahead bringing an entertaining and amusing horror movie. The film never takes a serious or obnoxious stance, and has no annoying teenagers, but the dialogue lacks motivation, with acting force and at times struggling to portray the characters properly. Australia never shows itself as a leader in the horror genre, in fact very rare therefore, a financial reasoning for the film to occur in the Lizard Gully must entice the producers of the film.
Only the most dedicated horror fans will catch some of the inside mentions and references to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead  and Tube Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre . This forgotten zombie film finds itself in the collections of zombie dedicated fans, but the rest of horror genre overlooks it with justified reasoning, especially with the ending adding even more bizarreness to the entire film with a nod to anti-war propaganda.
- The ultimate horror!
- The dead have awakened to seek revenge! Boy, are they ticked off! (DVD Tagline)
- It’s the boy’s night out… and so much to do before sun-up.
IMDb Rating: 2.2/10
Baron’s Rating: 2.0/10
This film was originally reviewed on the now defunct Rogue Cinema website in June 2014.