Patrick, Jeff, and Justin go to the lake to fish, and their day is ruined when zombies overtake the city.
The fact that the term “zomcom” has become common slang in the horror community since it was coined when “Shaun of the Dead” premiered ten years ago is proof positive how much the subgenre has exploded. Though large scale efforts tend to maintain the gravitas of their presented situations, many in the independent arena have discovered that humor has no production cost and is therefore priceless.
When one happens to be shooting a film with an inept script, zero sense of pace and performers who couldn’t land leads in the local community theatre, a sophomoric comedic tone that manages to elicit laughs throughout is certainly appreciated. Such is the case with “Thr33 Days Dead,” a technical nightmare from freshman writer/director John M. Ware. Filmed in rural Alabama for pennies and featured in the SyFy documentary series “Town of the Living Dead,” the absence of experience across the board comes shining through in the finished product, but is accompanied by adoration for the questionable material that can be infectious. This is one to just power down the think box for and take at face value, friends.
A nighttime grave robbery sets up the only exposition offered, involving a government biochemical plant accident that led to the victim’s demise. We’ll just let the debate of whether the risk/reward ratio is worth digging up the bit of gold a male corpse is buried with slide on by. Given that there isn’t a character with intelligence above a third grade reading level, inexplicable decision-making skills are going to be par for the course.
The following morning finds best friends Pat, Jeff and Justin at the local lake for a day of fishing and adolescent ribbing. The least dense of the trio, Pat (Bryan Boylen) serves as ringleader. Portly Jeff, amiably played by Chase Lawrence, provides cannon fodder for his slightly wiser friends, and Justin (Ware, garnering the third of many credits) blandly telegraphs his purpose as the one least likely to make it until the end. Their merriment is interrupted by the sight of a fellow angler being eaten onshore by the usual breed of mindless, shambling baddies.
A horde of the undead begins overtaking the city, and we’re also introduced to the brother-sister team of Pete (Gary Carreker) and Val (Catie Teeter) as they open the family’s clothing business. They barricade themselves within the shop once the streets become packed with zombies and they’re surrounded. A nod of credit must be extended to “Thr33” for not beating around the bush once the attack commences, dwindling the number of survivors down to an economical minimum in the first half hour. The kills, of which there are plenty, entail the expected low-tech stage blood and occasional bit of flesh tearing, but the game extras manage to keep them lively.
Finally finding the cajones to come in off the water and take their chances on land, the fellows head back to town after easily besting a crowd of antagonists and dragging one (a hilariously bad stunt dummy) behind their pickup. They seek refuge with the siblings, and no sooner than you can utter “love interest,” Pat and Val are flirting. An aborted attempt at gathering lumber to board up windows leaves Justin fulfilling his destiny, and the remaining four head out of town to look for others.
Things grind to a halt when the gang stops to check on loved ones en route to a remote lakefront cabin to lie low until authorities arrive. Allowing the viewer respite is a mistake, as “Thr33” relies upon spotty characterizations and the budding obligatory romance to see it into the finale. Pete’s slow transformation due to a previous bite and a smattering of amusing asides from Jeff do not help to conceal the project’s weaknesses once we’re left with no energetic vibe to keep us from contemplation.
Ranging from passable to “Did Ware owe this person money?”, the performances are buoyed by the strong camaraderie between Boylen and Lawrence. Their harmless insults miss as often as they hit, but bear the genuine mark of longstanding friendship. As previously stated, any attempt to rationalize the thin motivations behind these individuals will only result in frustration and possible aggravated assault on the television.
Sans the banter and sporadically inventive comedic gags, the enterprise would leave very little in the way of enjoyment. The standout bit involves a string of fantasy sequences as the boys contemplate their first battle with the undead, each one just as ridiculous as the last. With more cash in the pants and financial leverage to focus on these aspects, “Thr33” could have been something special. The closing sequence doesn’t skimp on the goo, another indication of a zanier, gorier work inhibited by budget.
Hopefully, Ware will be allotted the chance to achieve his potential in the future. As a first-time effort, “Thr33 Days Dead” will never be mistaken for a good movie. A few brews and a couple of snarky pals to view it alongside, you’ll hardly notice.
Now, off to hunt up “Town of the Living Dead.” I wouldn’t mind hanging out with these cats awhile longer.