Monday, October 22, 2007

Automaton Transfusion

Director: Steven C. Miller
Writer: Steven C. Miller
Starring: Garrett Jones, Juliet Reeves, William Howard Bowman, Rowan Bousaid, Ashley Elizabeth Pierce
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 80 min
Country of Origin: USA
read my spoiler disclaimer

reviewed by Andrew James
at Toronto After Dark Festival

      The second screening of a zombie picture at Toronto After Dark was Automaton Transfusion. A worthy addition to the zombie genre and loads of fun that mostly outweighed the problems - of which there were several.

      After a small zombie outbeak at a hospital, the infection quickly spreads to the local high school. We follow two groups of teens throughout the course of the evening as they try to evade and fend off zombie attacks. One group is in a rural farmhouse party, while the other has driven to another neighboring town to catch a concert. Once they arrive at the city, they soon realize that there is nobody around and that the entire town has been overrun by zombies. Their goal is to get back to the car and back to their hometown in an attempt to rescue their friends at the farmhouse.

      As for directing and the overall feel of this as a zombie genre picture, it works extremely well. It is very much in the vien of Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, but without the use of a large budget. The shots and style and clever tactics to cover up the obvious lower buddget work amazingly well and in terms of directing, it's difficult to tell that it's incredibly low budget. A few scenes in which entire city streets and freeways are completely devoid of any human presence are ominous, while at the same time engrossing. But again, it's all been done in clever ways; not by buying expensive permits or using CGI.

      Thankfully, the director has also not employed the use of "shakey cam". It's used in a few sequences sparingly and appropriately to show general chaos and confusion, but when it comes to the scenes where the audience needs to see what is happening on-screen, the camera stays still and let's us enjoy the art the director is trying to give us.

      The actors involved leave a little bit to be desired however. At first, it feels like they might work pretty well. But as the picture wears on, it becomes evident that these kids are able to act as fun teenagers pretty well, but when the drama and terror kicks up a few notches, these kids are out of their league. It's not terribly noticeable or laughable; it's just... not good.

      The other problem lies with the screenplay. There are a few weird loop holes and continuity problems that myself and I know a few others around me scratching their heads a bit. It's not a confusing plot or really intricate dialogue (quite the opposite actually), it's just that little things happen that just don't wuite make sense. On top of this slight confusion, is the lack of transisssion bewteen segments. It's difficult to say how so many zombies sprung up so quickly or why and how these characters choose to do what they do. The entire story is a series of goals that the characters feel they need to accomplish: get to the car, get to the farm, get to the school, get to the hospital, get to the bar and so on and so on. This methodology got tedious and a little annoying.

      Tie all this together with a ridiculous resolution, or "unveiling" and some laughable dialogue and poor acting at the end, and you might think the film is practically unwatchable. But far from it. The positives far outweigh the negatives here and again it's all in the directing and one other aspect: the makeup/gore department.

      The creativity involved with the kill shots and the terrific use of gore and blood and guts is spectacular. This is A level, horror filmmaking that overrides anything negative you might find with the film. Several of the money shots are slow, lingering and downright painful to watch. They are also unique and interesting. Again, no shakey cam here to cheapen the effect. You see each shard of glass in the eyeball and each decapitation clear as day and it looks gorgeous. This aspect made the whole film worthy of a screening and high praise.

      So while not perfect, Automaton Transfusion has so many great aspects that it made for a pleasurable viewing experience. Not too short, not too long and enough crazy, bloody zombie action to make George Romero proud. Would I revisit A.T.? Almost certainly if given the chance.

Press "PLAY" to watch the trailer

Links: - full cast and crew
Official Site
FLIXSTER profile for Automaton Transfusion
Posted by Andrew James in

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