Twitter Plot Summary: It’s a diner, at night, and a serial killer’s plans are put on hold when the dead come back.
Director: Patrick Horvath
Key Cast: Joshua Grote, Liesel Kopp, Parker Quinn, Maria Olsen, Larry Purtell, Daniel Schweiger
Five Point Summary:
1. Nice opening, but would be better if the sound mix was level.
2. He’s almost too whimsical to be a serial killer.
3. So… do these flashbacks really serve any purpose?
4. Nice bargaining tactic, lopping off a finger…
5. Obligatory finale with a slight twist. Okay, you’ve sold me.
Kentucky Fried Zombies (aka Die-ner) is another typically low budget zombie film limited to a single location and filmed over 8 days. And it really shows – no effort has been put into mixing the sound properly and the footage looks washed out and not even given the benefit of a post-production spruce. Case in point – the opening five or six minutes shows a conversation between waitress Rose and Ken, a traveller who happens to have a bag just for tape and rope. The camera focuses solely on her throughout this entire exchange, as does the microphone. Her dialogue is clear whereas his sounds muffled and distant. They didn’t even bother levelling out his audio in post. Then, when their conversation reaches its natural end, he kills her and the chef, the only two people in the building. Naturally.
Ken starts his clean-up operation when he’s interrupted by the arrival of Kathy and Rob, a couple who are going through a rough patch in their relationship. Ken pretends to be a waiter and they are soon joined by Duke, the local sherriff. And then the dead waitress and chef start walking around and the zombie goodness begins. Except, it’s not actually that good. Limiting the setting to one venue might seem like a nice, cheap idea in principle, but in practice it means the script repeats the same beats in order to pad out the running time, which is already a lean 75 minutes. More than once Ken is knocked out and experiences what I assume are flashbacks to his youth. These aren’t explained and they don’t add anything to the story – are we supposed to sympathise with Ken? Because apart from those sequences they make it very hard to do so. Yes he’s a laid back killer with a penchant for witty retorts, but that doesn’t mean we should like him. The zombies look moderately cheap – I’ve certainly seen worse – however the almost lackadaisical attitudes of the living characters towards them means there is no sense of threat. People get bitten, and the attitude is “so what?” Not the best frame of mind to be in when beset by a horde of the living dead, and where bites turn you into one of those same undead swines.
It tries really hard to be funny, and if handled slightly differently I’m sure the humour in the script would come out. As it is, there’s definitely a hint of whimsy to events but they’re curtailed by the feeling that the shooting schedule was rushed. Nice ideas like the couple on the verge of a relationship breakdown and Ken’s deadpan response to dealing with the undead aren’t given enough room to breathe, and tonally it doesn’t quite hit the mark. The frustrating thing is I can see what the script was trying to accomplish, but it falls quite some distance away from the line. Chalk this one up as a missed opportunity. There’s scope for this kind of zombie story to work, but it needs a bit more time for events to play out and more focus to be placed on the characters and their motivations in order to be a worthwhile venture.
Favourite scene: Cutting to a zombie that’s been duct-taped to the floor. Genius.
“Why do you have a bag full of tape and rope?”
“Because it’s my tape and rope bag. What else would I keep in there?”
Silly Moment: Ken’s far too laid back to be a sadistic killer. Far, far too laid back.