It’s the “End of the World As We Know It” Movie Fest Month here at the ol’ Litterbox this April and I thought I’d start things out with our old friends, the Zombies and a look at the “Zombie Apocalypse”, Israeli style, with the recent Region 1 DVD for “Cannon Fodder” aka “Battle of the Undead”. Yep… all the fun of the seemingly endless Middle East bickering between Arab and Jew…. but now with 100% more flesh eating zombie action!! Amazingly thought provoking film-making with deep sociopolitical messages about the futility of violence in solving the divide between disparate cultures at conflict? Naaawww… not if we’re lucky… 😉
Our synopsis is: “Doron, an Israeli military security operative, is forced by a superior to take on one last mission before retiring from the endless killing between Israeli soldiers and Arab terrorists. He is tasked to lead a commando team and covertly go into Lebanon to capture a top member of the Hezbollah terrorist organization. But not all is as it seems, and Doron soon discovers that there is a far greater threat to Israel at hand than Hezbollah – the dead are rising. After the horrifying Battle of the Undead, the Middle East will never be the same! “
Well “army guys versus monsters” is always a pretty safe bet for an evening of movie fun… at least for this wee lady, so there’s a good chance I’ll be liking this one. Wanna find out if you’d like it too? Then, by goodness, you know what comes next…. 😉
Now this Catgirl has seen the Zombie Apocalypse reach just about every part of the globe in my cinema journeys, but I’m always interested to see those films from the viewpoint of the locals whenever possible. We’ve seen Israel weather the Apocalypse on the big screen in the US made blockbuster “World War Z”… but that pretty much was a very “American” look at how it would all go down and a lot of zombie fans worldwide thought we definitely got it all wrong. With the release of “Cannon Fodder” we get a much more Israeli spin on how it would go. And surprisingly… they seem to have pretty much the same instinctive distrust of the “powers that be” and their motives as it pertains to the Apocalypse as we here in the good’ ol’ USA.
In “Cannon Fodder”, we get pretty much that classic ol’ “conspiracy theory” plot spun against the backdrop of the Arab/Israeli conflict. Basically… our films hero, Doron (played by Liron Levo) is one of those shadowy commando guys that always seem to exist in these sorts of stories to do all the “dirty deeds” his government needs done to try to win the war against the terrorist elements threatening Israel. That’s a thankless, grueling, and ultimately soul crushing job that love off country and a strong sense of duty can only make tolerable for just so long. As our film begins, he’s had enough. He’s got a new wife, Michal (played by Shira Katzenelenbogen), and a chance to leave that life of violence and death behind, but as always… there’s just that “one last job” needing to be done. Yep… we’ve certainly heard that one before….
Doron let’s himself get talked into leading that mission… to capture a vital member of the Hezbollah leadership… by his old mentor, General Gideon (played by Amit Leor) despite the sensible protests of that pretty wife. Big… big mistake… but aren’t those vital secret missions always like that? Sigh….
He hooks up with his squad of soldiers and sneaks into Lebanon looking for their target all the while as more and more suspicious “combat casualties” are rolling into the military hospital back on his base. The Israeli border with Lebanon… now that was really somewhat of a letdown. I mean… I can’t really believe it’s actually nothing more than an unguarded chain-link fence you can drive right up to in any old civilian van and then just crawl under. Somehow all those years of news reports about armed conflict in the Middle East had me expecting… well… something… anything… more formidable. Really, really, unbelievably unimpressive…. No check points loaded with soldiers… no deadly minefields and barbed wire entanglements… no open kill zone bracketed by mortars and artillery…. or even a deceptively placid “no-man’s-land” under surveillance from both the Israeli and Lebanese armies. Just a single goofy fence, and a broken one at that. Heck…. even Pee Wee Herman could infiltrate Israel through this thing!! I have to say…. I was really disappointed by this rather stupid notion, and even Carolyn was a bit incredulous of it all. (Any of my Gentle Visitors with real knowledge of this border… Feel free to weigh in on the accuracy of this plot notion, I’d really be interested to hear if this is credible or not… But seriously… I’ve seen better security against trespassing at my local Walmart than is shown here.)
Anyways… it’s Zombie action we’re looking for, and once our brave commandos enter Lebanon they start running up against them pretty darn quickly. These are portrayed as the fairly standard gory shambling dead we know and love… with practical make-up effects that are basic and effective even if they aren’t particularly amazing or noteworthy. That fairly well sets the general tone for this movie. It’s mostly what you’d expect from the genre… very workmanlike and simple mostly hitting all the right notes… but certainly not the scary, thrill a minute gore-fest some other Zombie films are.
Eventually… after finding the zombified remains of the previous squad of soldiers sent to achieve this mission, (Yeah, yeah… you just knew that old story plot would get thrown in…) our guys find the Hezbollah safe house and capture the only surviving member there, Noelle (played by Yafit Shalev), the daughter of the man they were here to grab.
Although they don’t believe her, she tries to warn them about the Zombies… zombies that her scientist father accidentally created while working on a bio-weapon not for Hezbollah, but for Israel. Yep…. turns out General Gideon is the real bad guy behind all this mess, and he’s sent our hero to clean things up and bring Noelle’s father out to safety so they can work on a cure before the virus ravages both Lebanon and Israel. Oh…. and keep all that nasty illegal bio-weapon stuff a secret while they are at it, of course.
Doron finds all that out and eventually he and his surviving men team find a way to put all the political macho posturing behind them to team up with Noelle, fight their way out through the horde of zombies, and try to save the day. Ahhhh and naturally also to try and get him some payback for being used by Gideon. Does it work out? C’mon, people…. it’s a “Zombie Apocalypse” film…. so you just know it ain’t gonna turn out well. Yep. Humanity is screwed once again. 😉
All in all… I have to say this one was a bit disappointing. I hadn’t expected a big zombie battle to equal the overblown budget of a blockbuster like “World War Z”, but I had expected something more than I got. The acting on hand is adequate, although the characters are all pretty much the standard stereotypes, but the dialog and writing is clumsy and at times pretty ho-hum. Special effects… hmmmm… some pretty dodgy CGI scattered throughout gives the feel of a badly done TV movie… not a help to make this one something special. Makeup effects were primitive, although adequate and certainly nothing to cheer about. Pretty much the entire film left me with that unimpressed “Blehhhh” feeling… and I actually like goofy bad movies. It’s won a bunch of awards at film shows, but honestly I can’t really see why. Maybe I’m just tooooo darn picky a Zombie lovin’ Catgirl….
With that I suppose it’s fair to give this one a tepid 2 “Meows” out of 5. It’s just so, so, sooo darn overwhelmingly a rehash of ideas done before by much better films. Had it somehow had it’s own kooky flavor…. either by being so freakishly gory or hilariously funny… or had anything special in it’s own right, I might have enjoyed it more, but sometimes that’s how it goes. Sorry Israel… you’re gonna have to work a little harder next time. The DVD? Well, the Region 1 release is certainly fine, keeping the original widescreen presentation and Hebrew/English audio intact along with some good separate English subtitles for when things got hard to follow. It’s available for right around 15-20$ US and if Zombie films are your thing, you’d probably want a DVD just for the novelty of having it, but I can’t really recommend your rush right out to find a copy.
There’s a Trailer… and here it goes…