Disney Channel Original Movies haven’t always had the most, well, original of titles. Look no further than my generation’s beloved Smart House, which was about — you guessed it — a smart house. Still, I can’t help but roll my eyes at how lazy the title Zombies is for a film about zombies. That said, while it doesn’t break much in the way of new ground, the latest Disney Channel Original Movie does have some strengths worth celebrating.
As mentioned, Zombies is mostly about zombies, but a kind different than what you might be used to from countless horror films. These undead no longer seek human brains thanks to technological bracelets they wear to help tamper such urges. While this allows the zombies to live, work, and apparently reproduce, they’re still mostly shunned by the humans and forced to live in their own separate community. That is until this year when the zombies get to attend the human high school for the first time (Descendants, anyone?). This is where our zombie hero Zed (Milo Hanheim) first meets Addison (Meg Donnelly) — a cheerleader hopeful with a “freakish” secret of her own.
Even based on that vague description, you probably already know where the story of Zombies will take you. In fact, this star-crossed lovers plot mixed with an undead element might have you thinking the movie is akin to the modest hit film Warm Bodies. However, that’s actually not the case at all. As predictable as Zombies is, it does offer a new type of zombie not seen before as well as some interesting characters that help sell the concept.
While it may seem strange to single out, perhaps my favorite part of Zombies was the production design. Sticking to a color palette of mostly pinks and greens ranging from neon to pastel might sound nauseating but actually works quite well. Additionally, the sets and cinematography in this film come together in a way that heightens the surreality of the world. This, more than anything, was what kept me engaged with this film and made it an enjoyable ride.
Of course, this isn’t to say that the rest of the film is bad. On the contrary, there were certainly some standout moments, including many featuring the school’s football coach who made me literally LOL nearly any time he was on screen. The two leads also do a commendable job as does the rest of the ensemble.
Finally, we come to the music, which is… alright. There was nothing egregious like the much-maligned “Be Our Guest” in the first Descendants film but nothing really stuck out from your standard pop tunes either. I’d have to say that my favorite song overall was probably “Stand,” but sadly this number was also accompanied by the weakest visuals in the film: a montage of events we’d already seen — including some that happened less than five minutes ago! Admittedly, some of the others might grow on me with repeat listens (and separated from plot), but they were fun at least.
Naturally, I must note that a 32-year-old man is not the key demographic for a Disney Channel Original Movie. That said, I was surprised by how much I came to enjoy about Zombies overall. With a fresh look, fun characters, and a serviceable soundtrack, this is one DCOM I might actually recommend.
I give Zombies 3.5 out of 5 brrraaaainnnnsss (sorry — that’s, like, super offensive).
Kyle is a writer living in Springfield, MO. His deep love of Disney and other pop culture finds its way into his stories, scripts, and tweets. His first book “The E-Ticket Life: Stories, Essays, and Lessons Learned from My Decidedly Disney Travels” is available in paperback and for Kindle. http://amzn.to/1CStAhV