A Cadaver Christmas

A small, unremarkable but quite funny tale of revivified dead people overtaking a university building over holiday break.

With: Dan Hale, Hanlon Smith-Dorsey, Yosh Hayashi, Ben Hopkins, Jessica Denney, Andrew Harvey, Michael Kennedy.

One wonders what George Romero would have thought in 1968, when “Night of the Living Dead” commenced a new chapter in horror film history, of the term “zombie comedy” (notwithstanding the fact thathe’s made some since himself). These days there seem to be more zom-coms than straight-up undead thrillers, many retreads of better, prior efforts (notably “Shaun of the Dead”). But “A Cadaver Christmas” is a good ‘un — a small, unremarkable but quite funny tale of revivified dead people overtaking a university building over holiday break. Theatrical prospects are slender, but pic should attract genre fans in home formats.

The pic’s quasi-retro tenor is set by deliberate image streaking and blotting, as if this were a badly used 30-year-old grindhouse print, as cantankerous college janitor Chester (Dan Hale) fights off a bunch of zombies with his mop. He subsequently wanders into a dive whose only patron is burly Tom (Hanlon Smith-Dorsey), served by burlier bartender pal Eddie (Ben Hopkins). Though neither is the brightest ornament on the Christmas tree, they do perceive that something’s wrong, considering Chester is covered in blood, and call a cop friend of theirs.

It turns out Sam (Yosh Hayashi) has actually lost his police job due to an itchy trigger finger, which he is eager to demonstrate anew by unwisely driving the protags right back to the site of the alleged zombie attack.

They’re joined by an officious student campus security employee (Jessica Denney) and youthful all-purpose perv (Andrew Harvey). Eventually we get an explanatory backstory that has something to do with experiments on corpses by a science professor(Michael Kennedy).

Ludicrously over-the-top gore accompanies the climactic battle mayhem, and fake TV news reports over closing credits extend the story several amusing chapters further.

Perfs are nicely tuned. Co-scenarist Hale does the angry-nerd-turned-superhero to perfection, but Smith-Dorsey is particularly funny as the dimmest bulb onscreen. Feature directorial debutant Joe Zerull keeps the silly tale just pacey, deadpan and loopy enough to buoy it several degrees above Troma-style low camp. Assembly is smartly faux-cheesy.

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A Cadaver Christmas

Production: Produced by Daniel Rairdin-Hale. Directed, edited by Joe Zerull. Screenplay, Daniel Rairdin-Hale, Zerull, Hanlon Smith-Dorsey.

Crew: Camera (color, HD to Blu-ray), Zerull; music, William Campbell; additional music, Josh Weitzel, Anonymous A; costume designer, Peggy Hale; VFX, Steve Brown; makeup designers, Rairdin-Hale, Adam Orton; assistant director, Erin Zerull. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, May 13, 2011. (In Another Hole in the Head Film Festival.) Running time: 86 MIN.

With: With: Dan Hale, Hanlon Smith-Dorsey, Yosh Hayashi, Ben Hopkins, Jessica Denney, Andrew Harvey, Michael Kennedy.

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