DIRECTOR Stanton Barrett WRITER A. K. Waters (story); Matthew Carpenter (screenplay) STARS Ed Quinn; Michael Dudikoff; Rick Fox DVD 15 February

Navy SEALS vs ZombiesWith its elementary plot-by-numbers, pallid execution and rudimentary story concerning a viral outbreak which turns people into mindless, marauding flesh eaters, Navy SEALS vs. Zombies is a highly unremarkable film indeed. Given the obviously low budget it is hardly surprising that certain elements may suffer, and while the film can’t match the intensity of the barrage of stock-footage depicting riots and civil unrest it opens with, the predictable, unengaging screenplay — which doesn’t depend on budget — and bland direction scupper the film as it fails to offer viewers anything remotely compelling or original. 

The brusque and burly Navy SEALS film events as they unfold in order to help the powers that be ‘get a handle on what’s happening’, but the grainy footage doesn’t serve any purpose other than to maybe conceal cheap effects and, all too often, it merely resembles nondescript FPS video game footage. The action scenes lack conviction (which is surprising given director Stanton Barrett’s background as a film stunt performer) and the scenes in which the group face off against groaning, bloodied extras with outstretched arms lack any sort of suspense or immediacy. Certain things only happen to enable the convenience of later plot developments and the minimal characterisation relies on recognisable ‘types’ such as the eager young rookie with a pregnant wife, and the struggling reporter who is keen to prove herself, none of whom make any sort of impact.

At times the conviction of Barrett is surprisingly evident, but by taking itself as seriously as it does, Navy SEALS vs. Zombies enters an unusual quandary; it’s not trashy enough to be considered a ‘guilty pleasure’, but it is still wholly lacking in any sort of dramatic pathos to make the desired impact. As a result it, rather sadly, rings as hollow-minded as the living corpses that rampage through its narrative. An overly sentimental stance on American patriotism and a conveniently reached happy ending round off events in appropriately bland fashion. While some genre fans may be pleased to note that eighties action legend Michael Dudikoff features in a glorified cameo loaded with drab exposition and furrowed-brow acting, even he can’t save the day. Navy SEALS vs. Zombies ultimately possesses no discernible qualities to elevate it above, or even tell it apart from any other mediocre straight-to-DVD zombie flick.

Posted by James Gracey

James is the author of Dario Argento (Kamera Books) and a monograph on The Company of Wolves (Devil’s Advocates). He contributes to Diabolique, and has also written for Paracinema, Film Ireland, Eye for Film, Little White Lies and The Quietus.