Twitter Plot Summary: On paper, the thought of zombies in the Wild West is a genuinely fun idea. Cowboys & Zombies proves that you can still get it wrong.
In what seems to be one of a number of recent films that have combined cowboys with a fantastical element – aliens, vampires and the forthcoming dinosaurs (no joke) – Cowboys & Zombies pits the Wild West against the undead after a strange alien spore infects the local populace and turns them into flesh eating zombies. An unlikely trio of a cowboy, an indian and a former prostitute join forces to defeat the menace facing them or die an unpleasant death in the process. That’s it as far as the story goes, the remainder of the running time dedicated to anticlimactic scuffles with the undead and a thankfully brief effort at providing some empathetic history to our cowboy. Even this takes place towards the end of the film, with absolutely zero context given for his actions until that point. Clearly writer and director Rene Perez needs to work on his character development skills. And film making skills. And so on.
Lead actor David A Lockhart may look the part as gun-slinging cowboy Mortimer, but his voice lets him down. Can you picture a supposedly gruff cowboy speaking in an effeminate tone? The answer of course is no, unless you have seen Wagons East before, in which case the mere mention of the book store owner Julian will cause you a very slight amount of amusement. But then surprisingly, he’s still far better than everyone else in the cast, in particular the acting skills of Native American Rick Mora. He looks the part but never provides anything more than a monotonous delivery of dialogue and performance. For the most part he’s not much more than a walking waistcoat.
It would be churlish to criticise the production values as they do what they can on what was no doubt a small budget, however the main location used is a replica old West town, and it does sadly look rather cheap when used in a film setting – it’s all a bit too clean and new to accurately represent the era. The action comes to life a bit more when it’s set in the natural world, but only because it’s difficult to make a forest look cheap – just ask the production team and location scouts for Stargate SG-1.
Perhaps as a sign of the film’s quality, there are numerous occasions of gratuitous female nudity from at least three different women. This of course being a world in which women are generally helpless to defend themselves and rely solely on men to save them. There is no excuse for it, but if random nudity is the best your film has to offer then perhaps you need to rethink your career choices.
Then there’s the issue of the soundtrack. Every piece of music, whether it’s an orchestral/instrumental library piece or a totally out of context rock track, is far too loud in the sound mix and could probably do with being knocked down a couple of notches to bring it in line with the dialogue and sound effect levels. It is patently a film which is not very good. There is no tension, no surprises, and your usual array of bad acting and suspect special effects. In this respect at least it is consistent.