Possibly Sweden’s first zombie movie, Die Zombiejäger shows us what could happen if Gothenburg was invaded by zombies. And why the EU is important.
Made on a budget of about 4000 euros (6000 dollars), Die Zombiejäger is – as expected – an amateur hobby production made by devoted horror fans. These no/low-budget horror movies are always made by devoted fans, as the love for the genre is what they can pour into the project without limitations. And it’s that undefined quality you have to look for in movies like this. There will not be any “great special effects” or “awesome fights” or “cool stunts”. These things are only represented in the film by things paid for by the cast and crew that spent their beer money on the film rather than beer, in other words, not much and on a home-made level.
A virus has been spread in Gothenburg via milk, turning people into flesh-eating, blood-sucking zombies. The police is inept and so a German zombie hunter squad is called in, led by a mad professor-like guy calles Hans Buttgereitz (horror fans will get that reference). They take the ferry (!) to Gothenburg and start to kill zombies with an Uzi, throwing stars and a Colt. However, they soon run out of ammo, and need support!
Comparable to movies like Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste or Lars Erik Lie’s The thrill of a kill, this Swedish low budgeter reeks of so many tongues in any number of cheeks that it’s more an exercise in genre elements than a great movie in itself. The film offers zombies of course, and many of them too, but also some torture porn, an evil cult leader, a Ninja, a necrophile, gory splatter, and no less than two scenes with nudity and sex. The latter is much more uncommon in Swedish horror than you think, considering the collective liberated Swedish mind, and their history of sexy exploitation films and porn classics like Fäbodjäntan. That was 40-ish years ago, and a 2005 movie having two girls stripping for no money and just for fun is quite a bold move in politically correct and gender equal Sweden. However, what really characterizes the film is the killing of dozens and dozens of zombies, supported by cheesy dialogue. There is not so much “great” dialogue but some emphasis has been put on corny one-liners. While delivered by actors who range from laughable to acceptable, the jokes add to the feeling that this is not a movie to be taken seriously. You can’t do that with movies of this kind, as that leads to finding faults rather than appreciating efforts and intentions. And those two things do not lack in Die Zombiejäger. For example, the main actors play German characters and therefore speak German, rather than Swedish with German accent, or English. It adds to the fun cheesyness, especially if you locate all your German prejudices and clichés.
Going into other specifics, the soundtrack is one of the best things of Die Zombiejäger. More than 20 bands (among them Dark Funeral, Sturm Café and Red Cell) have songs in the movie, ranging from metal to synth pop. The aggressive music adds nicely to what is supposed to be a state of chaos and danger. The same thing is achieved by editing. While the camera work is so-so, quite a few scenes are improved by editing, making the action seem a bit cooler or more tense. There are also some digital effects in the movie, for example blood squirts, which was unusual for this type of movies when it was made. Say what you will of bad CG images, but in this case they add a bit of visual gore that fits the film. Zombie deaths need to be dirty, and if you can’t make heads explode in-camera, fix it in post!
The video image is relatively poor, but on the other hand the film has a huge cast of actors and extras. That alone is quite impressive, since the director could not entice potential participants with payment or even a great end result. Fortunately, the German zombie clean-up team is well cast. By that I mean that they look their parts. They should not give up their dayjobs for an acting career, but they are at least embodying a comic book look of goofy undead hunters that is one of the many things that adds to the silly fun side of the film.
Most things are “bad” in Die Zombiejäger, from the DV images to the make-up and acting. But that is, in a way, by design. The problem is not beer money movies like this that fail to be good enough for a mainstream audience; the problem is professional films with a million dollars that fail to entertain. And Die Zombiejäger never fails to entertain, even if it is on the so-bad-its-good level. I have been entertained less by Michael Bay movies. Die Zombiejäger has very few dull moments, but you need to put your C-movie glasses on. You know, the ones that convert annoyance to laughter.
Things we learned from Die Zombiejäger:
- Sweden does not have its own zombie squad
- Look for little holes in milk cartons
- The Swedish army refrains from stopping the zombies so they won’t damage the city (lots of great architecture in Gothenburg, eh?)
- Germany still have mad doctors
- Zombies can be killed by bullets to the chest
- Swedish zombies are often dressed in jeans and t-shirts that never get soiled
- Without the free personell movement of the EU, Sweden would be overtaken by zombies by now
If you are looking to buy this movie, try to find the 3-disc ultimate edition by Sock Films. It’s jampacked with extras, in fact so much that it might be the most comprehensive Swedish movie ever in terms of extras and bonuses. In your face, Tomas “I get government money” Alfredsson!
Rated 5 of 10.
Directed by Jonas Wolcher.