The first part of the Plaga Zombie trilogy, 1997’s Plaga Zombie was the first zombie horror ever to be released in Argentina. Made with a reported budget of only a few hundred dollars, the film was directed by Pablo Pares and Hernan Saez who also wrote and starred along with Berta Muniz.
The story follows three friends, wrestler John, doctor Max and geeky Star Trek nerd Bill who are trapped in their flat during a zombie apocalypse. These aren’t simply the walking dead, these are people who have been used as the first line of attack of an alien invasion. Aliens have infected a few select humans with the zombie virus and just set them loose to spread the virus and kill other humans, leaving the planet earth for the aliens to take.
At first the three just hide out, but they soon decide that they’re not willing to take this lying down and take the fight to the zombies. What ensues is a series of overlapping fight scenes that last more than half the movie, like a sort of splattergore version of Gareth Evans’ ‘The Raid‘ (2011).
Obviously with such a phenomenally low budget, production values aren’t great, the film is shot on a video camera, mostly hand held and the zombie make up and regular splatters of gore are created using whatever was to hand. Since this was always going to be a problem, the filmmakers decided not even to try to hide it, instead the film wears its cheapness on its sleeve. Whenever you see a zombie movie you know it’s all fake anyway so why shouldn’t it look that way? It’s a fantasy and you find yourself buying into the conceit so swiftly that it really doesn’t matter that these are zombies created with food dye and cake frosting.
What it lacks in production values and budget the film makes up for in imagination and balls. The film walks a fine line between funny and disgusting (a line familiar to fans of Peter Jackson’s Braindead) and its tongue in cheek humour matches its homemade aesthetic.
Alongside traditional zombie film weapons such as the chainsaw we have numerous wrestling style fight scenes and, at one point, kung fu zombies. One character takes a lawn mower to the head while an unfortunate zombie accidentally swallows a set of plastic vampire fangs and has them ripped out of his stomach (including a shot from inside the zombie!). The zombies even order take-out, although when their pizza arrives things go spectacularly badly for the poor delivery boy!
Leaving aside other splattergore films, this is tonally closest to 2004’s Shaun of the Dead. It’s notable that both films have heroes disguising themselves as zombies and while I can’t be certain that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were paying tribute to Plaga Zombie, I wouldn’t be surprised.
That tone is what makes Plaga Zombie succeed where so many films made by mates just having fun on an ultra-low budget fail. Generally such films are either so desperate to be taken seriously that they become pretentious, or they make the mistake of thinking that if their film is bad enough it will be funny (it won’t, not ever). Plaga Zombie pitches it just right, its serious moments (and there are one or two) are founded on the likeable lead characters, while its comedy is never at the expense of its premise. Crucially it’s a film that takes itself seriously even while acknowledging its own shortcomings and covering the screen with gore and goop.
The film spawned 2 sequels ‘Plaga Zombie- Zona Mutante‘ (2001) and ‘Plaga Zombie- Revolucion Toxica‘ (2013), higher budget but still clinging to the original’s handmade, gore-drenched aesthetic.
Watch the trailer for ‘Plaga Zombie’:
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Written by: Robin Bailes