Shatter Dead is a low-budget and slow-burning apocalyptic zombie film, that was written and directed by Scooter McCrae and released in 1994.
Shatter Dead takes some of the basic tropes of the zombie apocalypse genre and turns them on their head in one line; their bodies are dead, but their souls remain. The walking corpses in Scooter McCrae’s film are not flesh-eating monsters, they simply won’t die, or rather their bodies have died but they remain unchanged in who they are. From this premise the film examines some of the things that might, and quite probably would happen if everyone simply stopped dying.
For starters there is bound to be religious fanaticism, which is seldom good. There will be people who think this a punishment from God and others who think this is the first step towards the Second Coming. Some will think the dead to be either a stark warning or a punishment, while others will want to join them. The religious imagery in the film is a bit heavy handed (some will definitely find the angel sex scene blasphemous) and the dialogue is leaden and portentous, but the sentiment behind it all feels about right for the situation; this is probably what would happen.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the premise is personified in the character of Mary (played by Flora Fauna?!) a beautiful girl who has committed suicide so that she will remain so. Which sounds crazy at first but think about it; eventually you will die of old age anyway, so do you want to spend eternity as an elderly zombie or a young, hot zombie? It highlights one of the big questions of the movie; why fear death if we know it’s not the end? And yet lead character Susan (Stark Raven- the actresses in this movie have the best names) does fear death, because that fear is ingrained and to do anything else is unnatural. Of course there are also problems with eternal living death; if you are injured you won’t heal, broken bones will not knit. Your blood doesn’t circulate so it pools if you stay still and of course men cannot get an erection for the same reason. But are these things sacrifices worth making? Though it’s not explicit (one of the very few things that’s not explicit in quite an unsubtle film) there is a hint of a religious point being made here; if you believe in an afterlife then why don’t you welcome it?
From a conceptual standpoint there is a lot to like about Shatter Dead. The story just follows Susan as she tries to get home with her shopping, making its points in episodic encounters throughout her journey, an approach I like very much. There are however two major problems, the first of which is that you almost miss how intelligent the idea is because the film is so badly made. The acting is stilted, which maybe because the dialogue is so forced. The zombie make-up is unconvincing, which wouldn’t matter in another film but in such a serious one it really takes you out of the moment. Obviously the budget was low but that can’t excuse poor editing and shot choice. It just looks like a home movie.
The other major problem is the world in which the film is set. The things is, these zombies are not killers and yet the living are all armed. Why? There’s nothing to protect themselves against and these zombies can’t be killed, shooting them won’t do anything. Perhaps it can be explained because the world has become more dangerous generally owing to the fanatics I mentioned above. But more perplexingly, the streets seem to be empty except for the dead. Again, why? Where have all the living gone? If the dead aren’t killing them then there is no reason for there to be fewer of the living and no reason for the living to hide. Perhaps it’s meant to illustrate how many are killing themselves but that really doesn’t come across. Early on in the film Susan listens to a chat show on her car radio which strongly suggests that life is continuing as normal but that suggestion is completely undermined by the streets through which she drives. Bottom line; this is a very inconsistent world.
When reviewing Shatter Dead, Brad Miska’s Bloody Disgusting website said ‘…Mr McCrae should flesh out his ideas a bit more before putting them to film.’. That sums it up perfectly; the ideas are there and they are interesting, but the resulting film falls far short of doing them justice.
Watch the 1994 trailer for ‘Shatter Dead’:
|Find ‘Shatter Dead’ at Amazon|