A group of young people head to Ibiza for the holiday of a lifetime – all the sun, sea and sex they can handle. If only there wasn’t a zombie outbreak getting in the way.
Director/Writer: Andy Edwards
Starring: Cara Theobold, Emily Atack, Algina Lipskis, Jordan Coulson, Homer Todiwala, Ed Kear, Matt King, Marcia Do Vales.
I do not have a soft spot for teen sex romps, and that’s why I wasn’t much looking forward to Writer/Director Andy Edwards UK zombie rom-com Ibiza Undead. It was all the more surprising, then, that I enjoyed it—laughed, even, at the off-kilter jokes and sophomoric content riddling the film. There are several reasons for this: Ibiza Undead’s got unexpected heart, plants its tongue firmly in its rotting cheek, and acknowledges the stereotypes of the genre that it could so easily lose itself to.
The story begins with three loser friends—Alex (Jordan Coulson, Wolfman 2010), Jim (Ed Kear, SPY 2015), and Az (Homer Todiwala)—departing from London to the party isle of Ibiza. Expecting to get loads of tail, Jim and Az are appalled to see that Alex failed to uninvited his straight-laced ex-girlfriend Ellie (Cara Theobold, Downton Abbey). Alex, on the other hand, is looking for a chance to get back together with Ellie, but it’d take a zombie outbreak to convince her that was a good idea. Lucky for him, that’s exactly what’s in store, thanks to the injudicious use of zombie entertainment by the sleazy-yet-dapper nightclub owner Karl (Matt King, RocknRolla). What ensues is a very English teen sex comedy without much sex, but with more humor and a smidge of the undead.
The reason Ibiza Undead works while scores of similar (and bigger budget) titles like Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse fail, is because Andy Edwards’ scripts turns clichés on their head. The slut happens to be smart with a heart of gold; the blowhard is redeemed, but still gets his comeuppance; and the surviving cast isn’t 100% white as mayonnaise. All of this wouldn’t matter, though, if the film was poorly written; thankfully, Edwards’ dialogue is snappy, and each shot is edited to keep the beats consistent and prevent the scenes from dragging. There are threads started early in the film that are all called back to by the end, and everything wraps up for a satisfying and not less-depressing conclusion.
The acting is above par, also. Matt King owns his role as the criminal club owner who just happens to be gay, and Algina Lipskis and Emily Atack escape the hyper-sexualized spring-breaker mold by getting the opportunity to actually emote. The real tough role went to comedic actor Jordan Coulson, who commits to “Big” Jim’s cringe-worthy dude-bro rants with gusty enough to carry them over the home plate.
Ibiza Undead looks pretty good, too. Day and night scenes are lit with expertise, and only a few of the club scenes border on too dark. The zombie effects are adequate, and occasionally peak to good. The sound recording is on point, which so often is ignored in budget affairs, and the movie looks fairly expensive. The music is a lot of club techno, and it’s crisp and mood-appropriate. It’s not a soundtrack I’d buy, but it works well in context.
There are some valid criticisms to make of Ibiza Undead, however. Jim’s misogynistic dialogue gets tiring, and—even though it’s acknowledged by the plot—could’ve stood some cutting. Marcia Do Vales’ performance as “the worst club promotion girl” is hampered by her accent, and probably could’ve been helped by having her tone the character’s rage down from eleven. Cara Theobold, however, could’ve taken the opposite note, as her soft-spoken demeanor plays better in the hallowed halls of Downton Abbey than it does poolside. Most importantly to horror fans, however, is the lack of zombie action. The focus on character and plot is beneficial to the film as a whole, but those targeting Ibiza Undead as a cure for their zombie blood-lust will be disappointed. Most attacks are off camera, and zombies tend to be filmed in medium shots (likely to preserve the integrity of the makeup jobs). There are some limb severings, however, and electrocutions of undead go-go dancers that will please those yearning for bad-taste touches.
It comes down to this: if you’re looking for a fun and stupid comedy with zombies, blood, and UK humor, you’ll find it in Ibiza Undead. Just don’t expect to be horrified or inundated with walking corpses—those aspects play second fiddle in this little tune.