Ulli Lommel found success with a series of 1980s horror films, then pretty much dropped off the map. Actually, he's remained very busy making way-under-the-radar direct-to-video genre pics. SF Fearless Tales Genre Festival preemed two of his latest. "Zombie Nation" is the kind of daft what-were-they-thinking camp exploitation exercise that could prove manna for midnight-slot programmers.

After being one of Fassbinder’s core crew members and a brief associate of Andy Warhol’s, director Ulli Lommel found success with a series of low-budget 1980s horror films, then pretty much dropped off the map. Actually, he’s remained very busy making way-under-the-radar direct-to-video genre pics (though some go unreleased entirely). SF Fearless Tales Genre Festival preemed two of his latest, both shot in Los Angeles on video, and featuring some of the same thesps (including Lommel himself). “Zodiac Killer” is pedestrian, but “Zombie Nation” is the kind of daft what-were-they-thinking camp exploitation exercise that could prove manna for midnight-slot programmers.

Bullying, German-accented LAPD veteran Joe Singer (Gunter Ziegler) has a habit of stopping attractive women for imaginary driving offenses, dragging them to a remote warehouse, then some time later emerging a heavy duffel bag to be thrown into the nearest dumpster. It takes rookie partner Scott Masters (Phil Lander) rather too long to deduce the obvious. Superiors at precinct HQ (which, like most interiors here, looks like a minimally dressed warehouse) refuse to investigate Singer because they were all military buds in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Add to this ludicrous setup screaming naked asylum flashbacks, cheerful house music during gore interludes, voodoo priestesses, weird Christian motifs, gratuitous clips from prior Lommel epics… and you’ve got a jaw-dropping mess whose charms will bewitch fans of such past psychotronic masters as Ed Wood, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Doris Wishman and Ted V. Mikels. By the time serial murder victims rise from their graves looking like Spice Girls knockoffs, it’s clear the writer-director’s tongue is at least partially in cheek. Fortunately, most of his cast does not appear to have been let in on the joke.

Shoestring production’s tech aspects are OK, though use of different video formats results in a somewhat patchwork feel. Soundtrack is heavy on the metal.

Zombie Nation

Production

A Heidenheim Film production. Produced by Nola Roeper, Ulli Lommel. Executive producers, Carsten Frank, Marian Dora, Pia Yvonne Woods. Directed, written by Ulli Lommel.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Juerg Walther; editor, Xgin; music, Robert J. Walsh; production designer, Patricia Devereaux; art director, C.C. Meldan; sfx make-up, M.D. Botulino, Kizuku; assistant director/second unit director, Christian Bohm; casting, Rachel Devin. Reviewed at Fearless Tales Genre Festival, San Francisco, March 30, 2005. Running time: 81 MIN.

With

Gunter Ziegler, Brandon Dean, Axel Montgomery, Phil Lander, Martina Bottesch, Szilvi Naray-Davey, Karen Maxwell, Naidra Dawn Thompson, Victoria Ullman, David Hess, Ulli Lommel.
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