When the students at his new school learn of his polished musical talent they rope him into creating music for the school's dance squad. While overcoming his own demons he finds himself in the middle of a township full of hurt, including the dance squad's female leader and his own therapist. Of course what ensues is a sappy hodgepodge of genres that never (ever) meld.
The cast is strong, featuring the reliable talents of Josh Duhamel, Laura Dern, Tom Everett Scott and Maria Bello, and they are joined by the youthful presence of Lucas Till, Katrina Norman and Jae Head. There's no question that it's an impressive line-up, however, none of them are able to overcome the stodgy writing and the conflicting fusion of genres.
I generally reject dance movies, and I only respond well to exceptional examples. Contemporary dance flicks are the worst, and despite clear talent and craft I can't help but think that all of the dancers look like morons. Good choreography is clearly an invaluable art-form, but when set against an urban hip-hop soundtrack, it only multiplies the number of dickheads on screen. BRAVETOWN suffers this symptom in an agonising fashion. With a strong anti-war sentiment at the heart of the story, all of the dancing seems irrelevant and often inappropriate.
The film's drama is sincere enough, and there are moments that do resonate. The aftermath of war and the psychological impact it has on community is an important subject, and while the best of intentions try to relay this sentiment to a youthful audience, the message is lost in a series of uninspired, lacklustre dance sequences and a handful of unresolved storylines. Had director Daniel Duran chosen to ditch the dance angle then perhaps his story might have translated into something more important.
Set in the Austrian alps the film presents a familiar outbreak scenario. High in the hills at a remote ski resort a toxic snow-making-machine infects an unsuspecting businessman, leading to a full blown zombie outbreak. The remaining humans – including ski champions and bar staff – must bandy together to evade the flesh eaters and escape the mountain.
Despite the story being wearisome and uninspired, the film is surprisingly affective. Relying on some very blatant influences (such as Shaun of the Dead, Braindead, Black Sheep and Dead Snow) ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES boasts an impressive production design, with vibrant colours, attractive cinematography and an undeniable technical competence. Director Dominik Hartl drives his film with a wistfulness that allows the audience to accept the generic conventions and relish the wonderful textures. The gore is a plenty and the effects are all practical. Blood and guts are strewn across the screen and a lot of frivolity has been injected into the violence.
The mountainous alpine setting makes ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES a visually appealing slice of schlock, and the taught 70 minute running times makes it an effortless and enjoyable watch.
Of course there have been notable successes (From Dusk Till Dawn) as well as some unsung victories (Dead Birds) but they are few and far between. Michael Du-Shane's feature debut, Bullets For The Dead, a western/ comedy/ zombie escapade comes out as one of the winners.
The plot is simple: Bounty hunter James Dalton (Christopher Sommers) snags notorious bank robber Annie Blake (Vanessa Moltzen) and her gang during a heist and en route to collecting his coin the rag-tag group must fend off a zombie apocalypse. That's about it.
The plot's simplicity just makes way for zombie-carnage and jokes. There is, after all, nothing wrong with an oft-told story so long as it's told well. Du-Shane knows this and is wise enough to be playing BFTD with his tongue firmly in his cheek. This isn't a revisionist western, nor is it a heavy meditation on frontier life. This is a film where Cowboys kill fucking zombies in massive numbers and everybody is as cool as ice.
It's not always a success, mind you, but it hits a bullseye more often than it misses; its budget's limitations sometimes gets the better of it (a lot of the costumes are remarkably well pressed and crisp and the production design sometimes looks like it was bought yesterday), some of the supporting characters are merely cannon-fodder and once or twice a two-shot is held a little too long, but when BFTD works it works very well indeed.
A solid script and nifty characterisations make up for many deficiencies and his knack for visual comedy lands as many jokes as the words in his script do. It's also nice to see a low-budget effort that gives its leads some time to emote. All too often films of this ilk lack a confidence in still moments but Du-Shane slows everything down on a number of occasions to simply sit with his characters which gives us a chance to care, and it's refreshing.
Du-Shane is one to watch. Let's see what he does next time with a bigger budget.