Review by Justin Goodman
It’s as easy to make a middling comedy as it is hard to make a great zombie comedy. What some of the classics of the genre share–Shaun of the Dead, popularly, but also Peter Jackson’s Braindead–isn’t simply flesh-eating monsters, but a love for the grey predictions of zombie apocalypses, showing humanity’s willingness to confront and adapt to the inhospitable instead of its despair. Civilization never really vanishes so long as people are around to hang on to it. Funny, when estranged from civilization. Which is why I found the opening of Me And My Mates vs. The Zombie Apocalypse off. “The following is a true story. It just hasn’t fucking happened yet,” it warns. Whether this is an omen about the likeliness of an actual apocalypse, or one about the film itself is uncertain. it’s not a matter of prudishness to wonder what this profanity adds. It doesn’t strike me as its own joke, nor does it emphasize the predictive aspect of “happened yet.” Rather, it seems to act as a kind of marker. Where you are about to go, it suggests, is civilization, where “fucking” retains its shock value. It’s these small, ‘crass’ gestures that upsets the joy in an otherwise fun (sometimes funny, even) movie.
Me and My Mates begins with an Outbreak in the Outback. Specifically, with a telecom worker named Darryl rummaging through empty houses for supplies. Since he’s played by Alex Williamson, whose most known for is Youtube comedy of mockingly acting out a working-class stereotype, of course what he means by “supplies” is beer. While not being outright stupid, however, he and his co-workers (Lachlan and Ryan), his bosses (Joel and Roy) and Roy’s daughter Emma, try to find a way to escape an increasingly precarious stay at an abandoned satellite control center. It’s clear that from the beginning that Williamson and Greg Fleet (who plays Roy) are the centrifugal force of the film. Ryan (Matt Pop) and Lachlan (Andy Trieu), another duo in the film, are energyless. So much so that they seem to require outdated jokes about latent homosexuality and male sexuality–a pair of topless women run by, away from zombies, and the two stop and stare–to give it pulse. But Roy and Darryl are symmetric; Roy, with his shotgun fatherliness and anger, could just as well be what Darryl would have become in a less zombified world.
It would be fair to say that they make up for everything else the movie lacks in coherent development or narrative follow-through. Plot points–the military is corrupt, Ryan and Lachlan warn, don’t call them for help–are dropped spontaneously. Character dynamics–between Darryl and Emma, who have end-of-the-world sex; Emma and Lachlan, boyfriend-girlfriend who bring up cheating on each other just once–drop away for a proliferation of one-off jokes. Breakaways from tradition–the zombies learn how to use tools–are created with no purpose but progression. Ryan even brings up the use of the term zombie, saying ““Stop calling them that, they’re not technically undead.” That clarification seems throwaway in the face of the irrelevance of everything plot-based. It’s fair to say Darryl and Roy make up the entirety of Me and My Mates seeing all this. They’re almost an It’s Always Sunny odd couple. The almost doesn’t make it any less energetic and silly, and there are a few genuine laughs, but it makes it closer to a Troma film in spirit. The issue with Troma being that its slogan, “40 Years of Disrupting Media,” represents how mores dependent its absurdity is. Regardless of whether Ryan’s shooting the infected in the crotch with a paintball or flashing his own testicles at Roy’s insistence, there’s little funny or disruptive here anymore. If ever there was.
Despite this, and despite special effects that are too easy to mock for even RiffTrax, Me and My Mates is speckled with enough funny bits that it makes it worth the time for fans of these kinds of films. Where those moments exist, it’s largely because of the nonchalance of stupidity. After being told the military mercilessly gunned down civilians, Darryl exclaims, “government’s don’t kill their own people. That’s never happened in history.” No one responds. Once they’ve called the military, they hatch a plan: Darryl waits armed in the bathroom while Joel and Roy claim they’re the only people there. Moment follows moment, the body count rises, and, finally, Darryl comes out and sees the bloodshed. “Did this happen while I was protecting everyone,” Darryl asks, more than ever sounding like Charlie from It’s Always Sunny. “Yes,” Roy responds, “you’re responsible for a lot of death, mate.” There’s ultimately too much of the society being railed against, and not enough of the social vacuum necessary for the world to exist. Unfortunately, without being truer to itself, this world can never be true.
Me and My Mates vs. the Zombie Apocalypse will be released on July 5, 2016 on DVD, VOD, and Digital channels throughout U.S. and Canada by Lightyear Entertainment.