Pregnant and frightened, Anais is not allowed to leave the specialized hospital where her husband, Peter has a medical internship with his uncle, Dr. Gabriel Schreklich, a man with a serum that can resurrect the dead. But things go terribly wrong and the Ghouls take over the hospital. Now, the only way for Anais to save her unborn baby is to get one of the Ghouls to help her to escape.
We have been overwhelmed in the past decade of so by a not so much new, but resurgent fad: zombies! It is zombie everything. Zombie comics, zombie tv shows, zombie movies, parodies of zombie movies, family zombie movies. My little dude even has a zombie t-shirt and a zombie backpack; no, he hasn’t seen Dawn of the Dead or Return of the Living Dead (he’s only five), but he has seen ParaNorman and Hotel Transylvania, two family friendly movies that bring zombies to even the youngest of kids. The point I’m getting at is that the market has been saturated, and so to make a successful zombie movie, one that not only looks good but also somehow tells a unique story in a sub-genre that has been around since the dawn of horror, is no easy task. With Night of the Dead: Leben Tod, Eric Forsberg comes close.
First off, it was with great excitement that I went into this movie after preliminary research, having seen it was written and directed by Forsberg. This guy is a SyFy legend. Some of his other movies? 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Snakes on a Train, War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave, Ghost Shark, and my personal favorite, Mega Piranha. While none of these qualify as the Citizen Kane of the horror genre, they are thoroughly entertaining. But Night of the Dead: Leben Tod is not a SyFy Channel exclusive; it’s an R-rated (or in this case, unrated director’s cut), shot on video horror movie that doesn’t cut any corners when it comes to blood and gore; for the most part, “real” blood and gore, not ugly looking CGI. It also tries to venture into a (semi-) new direction as a movie featuring zombies and/or the undead, along with a mad scientist and a hint of WWII era German medical experimentation.
In the beginning, we see Dr. Gabriel Schreklich (Louis Graham) working on a serum that he believes will bring animals back to life, or at least reanimate them. He tests it on a dead frog, only to have that frog scream and jump at him. He hasn’t quite gotten the right mixture yet for the serum when his wife and daughter are killed by a hit and run driver, the catalyst for his advancing the experimentation as well as his devolving into a mad scientist.
One year later, we meet the doctor’s nephew and assistant, Peter (Gabriel Womack), and his very pregnant wife, Anais (Joey Jalalian). They are staying at a small, private hospital where the good (?) doctor works; Peter to learn from his uncle, Anais to get the very best of care for the baby (or so Dr. Schreklich says, but why so many pills?). But Anais feels like she’s trapped, a prisoner in her own room not allowed to walk about freely. She feels like this for good reason. It turns out, Dr. Schreklich is doing some further experimentation with his reanimation serums, but he’s not working with dead animals anymore.
Night of the Dead: Leben Tod is pretty much all set in the small hospital, with a small cast that includes the family, a couple nurses, and Dr. Schreklich’s muscle-bound assistant, Gunther (played by David Reynolds, who you might recognize as “Little” Dick Wick in House of 1,000 Corpses as well as White Power Bill on Arrested Development). Oh yeah, and also a whole bunch of undead victims of Dr. Schreklich’s serum tests, in various states of disrepair. And a couple of special guests, locked away safely in their own room, that we were sure had already died earlier in the film.
One thing leads to another (no spoilers here, friends), and soon we have an all-out bloody battle on our hands as the undead begin to take over the hospital as well as expand their army. Lots of blood, lots of organs eaten, lots of nasty throat-gurgling sounds. Director Forsberg goes a lot more extreme here than with his SyFy features, and he shows a lot of promise with bucket after bucket of blood and gore.
Sure, the dialogue is, at times, silly, and the cliché of the doctor having a German accent is funny, and yes, there are quite a few holes in the plot. But there are also a couple cool twists, including one that reminds me a little of the end of Dead Alive (but more grown up). If you like zombie movies, but you’re hesitant to check out any new ones because you’re tired of seeing the same old thing over and over, Night of the Dead: Leben Tod is the way to go. It starts quick and it ends on a strong note, it’s fun, it’s original enough, and if nothing else, the bloodshed level is very high. What do you have to lose?