A police-escorted prisoner transport supervised by Interpol sets off to Belgrade. The route leads the transport through Pancevo, where they encounter an ecological disaster and infected people who are trying to kill them. Interpol agents Mortimer Reyes and Mina Milius soon realize that their only chance for escape from the zombie hordes lies in allying with the dangerous, mysterious prisoner.
Directed by: Milan Konjevic
, Milan Todorovic
. Starring: Ken Foree
, Kristina Klebe
, Emilio Roso
, Miodrag 'Miki' Krstovic
, Vukota Brajovic
, Steve Agnew
, Nenad Ciric
, Marko Janjic
, Ariadna Cabrol
, Eugeni Roig
, Iskra Brajovic
, Maria Kawecka
, Bojan Dimitrijevic
. Music by: Stefano Caprioli
The long-anticipated "Zone of the Dead" has finally hit the Serbian theatrical circuit, and so far, it seems the critics are mixed. Plenty voiced itself positive on this new film, Serbia's first ever foray into serious horror territory, but also, some people are only too happy to level severe negative criticism based, it seems, purely on the fact that "Zone of the Dead" is not Dawn of the Dead, or Day of the Dead, or even Diary.
Well, Milan Todorovic is no George Romero, but the more careful dissection of this film shows us he never fostered such intentions. A John Carpenter nut by self-admission, Todorovic, along with his colleague and namesake Konjevic, has crafted here a zombie movie within something you could name a "Carpenterian" creative domain. Drawing his inspiration from films such as Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing and much-reviled, but still cult-material Ghosts of Mars, the young Pancevo native manages to touch on several subjects and still maintain some "horror credibility" which might appeal to fans.
The story is something we've all seen before, but the spin is somewhat different. Unlike Romero's "it just happened" basic explanation, Zone of the Dead weaves in slight political and ecological subplots, which are very much tied in with the environmental situation in his hometown of Pancevo. In such regard, this picture is much closer to some unheralded genre entries like The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue or Jean Rollin's The Grapes of Death, rather than Romero's Dead tri...er, tetra...er, whatever-logy. While there are sudden bursts of gore to be witness (courtesy of Miroslav "Shoestring Savini" Lakobrija), the accent is more on the characters and their relationships.
It is here where Ken Foree comes to his full strength. Foree, who is now thirty years removed from his memorable Dawn of the Dead episode, delivers a strong, authoritative performance as a man with inner strife battling both himself and the zombie plague. It is not too far fetched to compare Foree's act here to latter-era John Wayne - he still kicks undead ass, but there is some maturity and wisdom attached to his appearance, and he looks as world-weary and as grizzled as the script intends him to be. Ideal foil to him is Miki Krstovic, while Kristina Klebe shows also some strength in her characterization.
For all the good things I mentioned, Zone of the Dead is obviously not perfect. "Serbian English" dialog can sound silly and stilted to Serbian audiences, but this effect will be lost in foreign territories, where people are just used to hearing accented English as a sign of plot taking part abroad. Some scenes lack the intended punch, and the shake-cam choreography will certainly have as much fans as detractors. The biggest fault I found was the usage of HD cameras, as the nighttime scenes look strangely "clear", without the good ol' grain associated with shooting on film. In film's defence, however, 35mm stock is pretty expensive (especially for rookie directors), and daytime scenes look wonderful with a slight sepia tint adding grindhouse flavour.
All things considered, this is an OK horror picture, from a country which has no horror tradition whatsoever. Whether you love it or hate will be your decision solely, but at very least, hats off to the production team for attempting something as bold and looking to break new ground into an otherwise stale market.
Review by Milos Jovanovic from the Internet Movie Database.