It's 1849. Mortimer (David A. Lockhart, The Crow 2),
a trigger-happy bounty hunter, rides into Jamestown on the trail of a rogue Apache warrior. Instead, he finds a town full of people turning into flesh-eating zombies - victims of a virus unleashed by miners panning for gold. In order to survive, cowboys and Indians must unite against undead in this tale of survival in the weird and wild West.
Written and directed by Rene Perez and, for the record, released before the massively bigger budget Cowboys vs Aliens, Cowboys & Zombies
is a bloody and gory but surprisingly straightforward horror flick. Quiet Earth describes the film as "Deadwood - with Zombies," an accurate description given the film's massive amounts of gore and serious tone that contradicts the rather lighthearted tone of the film's title.
Admit it. When you hear the title Cowboys & Zombies,
you find yourself expecting a light, tongue-in-cheek zombie flick set in the wild, wild West. The only time Cowboys & Zombies
is really tongue-in-cheek is when the quality of the acting drops (which is fairly often) and when the film's obviously low-budget production quality gets in the way (Again, this is rather often).
As a film critic who reviews a large number of hardcore indies and ultra-low budget films, there's an awareness that for the film's reported budget of $200,000, quite a bit more could have happened in the film. Yes, you expect there to be issues on such a modest budget but, without question, I've seen higher quality zombie flicks for 1/10 the budget.
That said, Cowboys & Zombies
does have quite a bit to offer the hardcore fan of independent horror and zombie flicks. While the film is called Cowboys & Zombies,
there's no question that the emphasis is on the zombies. The zombies are, in fact, the highlight of the film with top notch special and visual effects throughout the film considering the film's lower end budget.
David A. Lockhart, who turned in an under-appreciated performance in The Crow 2,
does a nice job here as Mortimer, while Rick Mora, who made a brief appearance in Twilight,
is solid as Brother Wolf. The film's supporting cast, including the zombies, are wildy hit-and-miss with an occasional showiness that contradicts the film's overall serious tone.
D.P. Paul Nordin's camera work is terrific, if anything a bit too pristine given the film's darker setting and mid-19th century time period. The film was shot in Jamestown, California, the same area where exteriors for 60's sitcoms Petticoat Junction and Green Acres
were shot. These exteriors, have a similar structure to that of Cowboys vs. Aliens,
a small "Old West" style strip surrounded by desert. In this case, however, the strip looks like a freshly built set despite its intentionally aged and weathered design.
Coming to DVD courtesy of Left Films, Cowboys & Zombies
isn't likely to win any critical acclaim or even horror/fantasy awards, but it's likely a must have for the hardcore zombie fan who will appreciate Perez's dedication to maintaining a serious tone and the entire team's ability to construct some pretty hellacious looking zombies. Please note that the film has also been seen under the title The Dead and the Damned.
For more information on Cowboys & Zombies,
visit the Left Films website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic