Movie Review: Atom the Amazing Zombie Killer
You'd have to be insane to want to be an independent filmmaker. Richard Taylor and Zack Beins, two childhood friends stationed in Denver, Colorado, may just fill this prerequisite. The duo's first feature film, Atom the Amazing Zombie Killer, has screened at horror conventions and small theaters all across the state and beyond, earning laughter and dry heaves from its audiences in equal amounts. Clearly influenced by Troma classics such as The Toxic Avenger, Taylor and Beins's ultra-low budget gorefest was a labor of love, taking nearly four years to complete due to the sort of inevitable hurdles that all truly independent filmmakers experience as they attempt to master their craft. Boasting that their flick is the first zombie movie to feature no actual zombies, the head honchos behind this Bizjack Flemco Production have created a stomach-churning journey that pays homage to its predecessors while simultaneously maintaining an awesomely original concept.
Atom the Amazing Zombie Killer opens during the tenth frame of a bowling match between the Zombie Killers (Mark Shonsey as Atom, Daniel Laverty as Ben, Tim Johnson as Lionel and David Mikalson as Herbie) and the Slashers (Zachary Byron Helm as Dario, Alec Rippe as Fred, Colden King as Jason and Clay Greene as Mike). Due to some nefarious cheating, the Slashers take the game to qualify for a championship tournament in Hawaii, and the brawl that ensues afterwards leaves Atom's zombie movie-obsessed brain scrambled and concussed. Hanging his throbbing skull in defeat, Atom starts to lose his mind as the world around him becomes consumed by the inevitable undead menace. It's all in his head, of course, and our beloved anti-hero begins his massacre, shredding his way through a bloody spectacular of flying limbs and decapitated heads with Dario, ex-girlfriend Emily (Lindy Starr) and the local police force hot on his gore-ridden trail.
Directing a cast much larger than any of their previous creative endeavors (including an extensive library of short films like The Misled Romance Of Cannibal Girl & Incest Boy) gave Taylor and Beins a chance to rack up a stellar body count and flex their muscle when it comes to over-the-top blood and gore effects. Zachary Byron Helm, a successful local filmmaker in his own right and founder of SORP Films, leads the charge against Atom as Dario, playing the role with the perfect amount of campiness. Lindy Starr's portrayal of the sinister Emily, Atom's former flame, consistently makes you hunger to see her eventual comeuppance. The incompetent cops, lead by the Chief Of Police (Jazz Copeland) and Detective Dick (Taylor stepping in front of the lens), provide much of the comic relief in between sprays of bile and diarrhea. Even the legendary architect of Troma, Lloyd Kaufman, makes a cameo appearance as Atom's slain Grandpa Abacrombie.
Working as "blood boys" on the set of the 2006 Troma horror-comedy-musical Poultrygeist: Night Of the Chicken Dead established Taylor and Beins as dynamos of cheapie special effects, and the gruesome twosome have gone on record to admit that Atom was just an excuse to fit as much gushing fluids as possible into a 90-minute window. Though this may be true, Atom is surprisingly heavy on exposition that stays engaging until the splatterfest draws to its conclusion. Mark Shonsey's performance draws the most out of dialog and situations that would otherwise crumble in the hands of lesser actors. The script by Taylor, Beins and Tim "Lionel" Johnson gives the improv comic Shonsey plenty of room to test his range, and he plays the lead with a fantastic balance, making you feel sorry for the poor delusional bastard while at the same time laughing at some of the sadistic yet innovative ways he offs "the living dead."
The Verdict: One's personal enjoyment derived from Atom the Amazing Zombie will lie largely on just how much his or her stomach can handle. Keep in mind that this isn't a multi-million dollar picture; it's a no-holds-barred bloodbath that keeps the laughs rolling as the main character continues his slippery decent into madness. This twisted amalgamation of The Big Lebowski and Dawn Of the Dead cannot be taken seriously, and it deserves to be judged for what it is -- an anything-goes celebration created on a completely self-funded four-digit budget that squeezes every last dime out of its financial restrictions. After 12 screenings (so far) and the possibility of being picked up by Troma for DVD distribution looming in the future, Atom the Amazing Zombie Killer is a rollicking good time and a step forward for Bizjack Flemco Productions that will certainly be topped by the crew's next feature film.
Rating: out of