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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: March 26th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 1991

The Zombie Army

Overview -

Blu-ray Review By: Bruce Douglas

The Zombie Army is an exciting regional horror flick filled with fantastic practical effects and the three tenets of a good cult movie: Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll. When the military takes over an abandoned asylum, two former inmates transform the soldiers into their undead army. This unhinged SOV flick is a smorgasbord of gore, action, and ladies kicking ass. Given the source material, the Blu-ray from Saturn’s Core and OCN Distribution provides a solid A/V presentation. A wealth of bonus material will surely please fans of SOV horror. Recommended

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
This special limited edition slipcover is limited to 1,000 units
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.33:1
Audio Formats:
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Special Features:
Audio Commentary from Richard Mogg, Visual Essay from Dr. Will Dodson (15mins), Interview with filmmaker J.R. Bookwalter (17mins), Vintage Cable Access Show: The Video Makers (53mins), Promo Contest Video (2mins), Isolated Score (11mins), Original Trailer (0:36mins))
Release Date:
March 26th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

“How can you tell a baby’s crazy?”

The film opens with a disclaimer titled “Death Threat.” It reads, “If you do copy this tape, we will creep into your room tonight, rip out your lungs, and eat your heart (Zombie Code 17, Sections 501 and 506)." I love this kind of commitment! Soon, The Zombie Army gets rolling, introducing us to psychopath Jim, who gets locked up in a fallout shelter with nympho Mary after the two were caught fornicating. We cut to the asylum abandoned after patients were mysteriously moved away and see a military battalion moving in to use the facility. As the soldiers dig through the trashed facilities, we see Jim and Mary escape the shelter and begin taking out the goofy privates one by one. This is satisfying revenge for Jim as he runs the asylum and gets the nympho. The two maniacs conclude that their victims need shock therapy, which brings the dead soldiers back to life as hungry zombies.  

Chaos reigns as the reanimated bodies of the soldiers wreak havoc through the asylum, chewing their way through victim after victim. When all else has failed Colonel Carl is brought into the Major’s office. She heads an experimental squad of badass bimbos called The Lethal Ladies. “My soldiers are every bit as good as yours, and they can get a dick any day of the week,” she spouts, hyping her squad. The Lethal Ladies prepare for battle and ride a utility jeep through the tunnel, which looks like a scene from Aliens. “Lethal Ladies are so sexy when they open fire, I‘m just burning with desire, go the rockin' lyrics from the Killtoys. Red fill lights reveal the grotesque setting and the intensity on their faces. Carnage ensues as the ladies battle it, hoping to find a weakness in the advancing hordes. 

It's a Frankenstein story with Jim resurrecting the dead bodies of the soldiers. These zombies mirror those of the early voodoo creatures, where they become mindless slaves of their masters. Covered in dark gray makeup, the soldier’s bumbling behavior continues even when sharing a plate of slimy entrails. John Kalinowski’s inspired script makes every opportunity to reference horror films of the time. Day of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead both feature a military presence combating the zombie outbreak, which leaves The Zombie Army riding the wave of late-80s horror themes. And like any good 80’s horror, there are topless women and a sleazy sex scene curiously inserted into the film. 

Where the film succeeds is with the excellent practical gore effects. We’re treated to sustained shots of bubbling guts and blackened ooze, which are much appreciated. Hallways are filled with fleshy goop. Steam rises from acid-drenched corpses. Exploding heads and ripped guts aplenty! Blood splatter surges from a punched face and hits the wall with a satisfying spray. For me, the peak moment is a topless Lethal Ladies victim getting her eyeballs eaten by two zombies. Chef’s kiss to that.

Performances are pretty wooden in The Zombie Army, but everyone commits to the material. Dialogue exchanges rarely have a sense of urgency, even when faces are ripped apart.  The amateur actors playing zombies go full tilt into the work, leaving no question of their motivations. While the story is predictable, the chaos looming in each sequence keeps you hooked to the screen. Military units are well-dressed and armed for their scenes, giving the production plenty of confidence. Adding a particular group of Lethal Ladies inserts an exciting element to the story, although their use is limited. While a case could be made that the film contains a feminist angle, with them representing the stronger of the two sexes, I feel that John was more interested in putting sexy soldiers getting their shirts ripped off than exploring gender issues. 

The Zombie Army has a visual scope and distinct editing style far beyond other SOV horror flicks of the time. Impressive camera work throughout the film, whether it's the high-intensity zombie attacks or the sustained intimate moments during a sex scene. There is a natural eye here for detail within shot composition and camera movements giving this regional horror flick a real sense of maturity beyond its chaotic determination. 


Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ra
The Zombie Army arrives on Region Free Blu-ray courtesy of Saturn’s Core and OCN Distribution. The disc is housed in a transparent keep case with reversible artwork. Loading the disc displays the Saturn’s Core logo before landing on the Main Menu screen, which has typical navigation options adjacent to scenes from the film playing on repeat. 

Video Review

Ranking:

Resurrected by Saturn’s Core and OCN Distribution, The Zombie Army is presented in their film’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Restored from the original S-VHS tapes, this transfer is the best the film will look. The HD image shows discernible primaries, though detail is fuzzy at best. Black levels are solid, while contrast is shaky at best. The film was previously released on Blu-ray through Future Video and Make Flix. As predicted, this transfer from Saturn’s Core looks identical to that release from 2022. Those with previous home video releases of the film should consider this one as the special features are well worth the price of admission. 

Audio Review

Ranking:

Moaning and groaning through the asylum, The Zombie Army gets the job done with a serviceable DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track. Distortion, hiss, and pop are prevalent throughout the feature. Dialogue is discernible, though on-camera mics occasionally pick up more atmospherics and effects than voices. Subtitles are available and recommended when the dialogue is difficult to understand. Keep the volume up to fully appreciate the rockin' soundtrack from the Killtoys! 

Special Features

Ranking:

Saturn’s Core and OCN Distribution have loaded this release of The Zombie Army with new and archival bonus features. The commentary track, visual essay, and Analog Outlaw featurettes are new to this disc, while the others have been ported over from the Future Video Blu-ray. I recommend fans start with Richard Mogg's excellent commentary track before moving through the other offerings. 

  • Audio Commentary Richard Mogg, author of the definitive guide to SOV horror Analog Nightmares, provides an amusing yet informative commentary track. His casual delivery is inviting, making the experience excellent for curious fans and those looking for a deep dive into SOV filmmaking. As a bonus, Richard does a deep dive into the film’s sex scene and why its so great.  
  • Incubators of Death: The Asylum in Horror Cinema (HD 14:56) This visual essay by Dr. Will Dodson examines briefly the history of insane asylums and their representations through key horror films. 
  • Analog Outlaw (HD 16:53) An interview with Distributor and filmmaker J.R. Bookwalter discusses The Zombie Army. Recounting his career in fanzines, Bookwalter speaks at length about the challenges of distributing independent VHS horror. 
  • The Video Makers (HD 52:29) This Vintage cable access TV show hosted by writer/producer John Kalinowski is filled with SOV dignitaries. Terri Lewandowski (Dead North)and Christine Cavalier (Vampire Brides) from W.A.V.E. Productions are interviewed early on, each with a sizzle reel to highlight their work. W.A.V.E. Founder Gary Whitson, writer Sal Longo, and effects artist Aven Warren appear next. Dave Castiglione even shows up with raw underwater footage from Hung Jury
  • Archival Contest Video (HD 1:41) This promotional video opens with a camo bikini model sitting on a jeep with a rifle in hand. You have my attention! She enthusiastically informs us that if you write the total number of continuity defects from the film on your video store rental receipt and mail it off to CheapShot Productions in Delaware before October 1991, you could win a jeep used in the filming of The Zombie Army! What are you waiting for?!
  • Isolated Music by The Killtoys (HD 11:22) Scenes from the film play as we jam out to the rock tracks from The Killtoys. 
  • Original Trailer (HD 0:36)

Final Thoughts

The Zombie Army is a bloody good regional horror flick filled with fantastic practical effects. Riding the wave of late-80s zombie movies, the film is a unique combination of established tropes, providing an entertaining experience for gorehounds. I love the attention to detail in referencing horror films and using an actual asylum for filming. Considering the source material, the Blu-ray from Saturn’s Core and OCN Distribution gives the film a solid A/V presentation. Special features are tailored for SOV horror devotees. Recommended

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