While the idea of a horror film featuring a zombified Bin Laden may strike some viewers as shockingly distasteful, hundreds of others recognised the potential of the concept when an online Kickstarter fund appeared for the completion of post-production on the film. The film’s creators set the initial goal of $15,000 and this figure was eventually exceeded by a further $12,903 in backings from eager horror fans. Anticipation for the film was even picked up and reported on by a few news media sites. The completed film, Osombie, hit shelves in the UK earlier this week, and I immediately picked up a copy. Yes, the idea is in bad taste, but the potential for B movie comedy-horror seemed too great to resist. Plus, with the future of horror cinema seeming to be filled with remakes, any idea with an ounce of originality is greatly welcomed.
The story follows a group of American soldiers in Afghanistan, hunting down the root of a zombie uprising. They are joined by American civilian Dusty, a young woman out looking for her rather eccentric brother, Derek, who is convinced that Osama Bin Laden is still alive and is determined to kill him. Of course it inevitably turns out that Al-Qaeda are responsible for the whole bloody mess, deliberately infecting Islamic insurgents with the zombie virus to create the ultimate weapon against the American troops.
Although a straight-to-DVD release, the film actually isn’t as hilariously B movie-ish as you might expect. The performances aren’t bad, the gore is always kept at a fairly safe level, and nothing too ridiculous happens (Aside from a few questionable moments… I’m sure American soldiers are issued with swords all the time). Some bad CGI is what most betrays the film’s low budget, but it can easily be forgotten. Shaky handheld camera is used for much of the film, obviously aiming for a realistic effect, with a focus on anecdotal ‘witty’ dialogue. Overall, apart from the Bin Laden aspect, the film is really quite conventional.
And if we think about it, the zombie/terrorism allegory is actually quite a common one in recent horror cinema. Directors like George Romero have previously referenced the ‘War on Terror’ in films like Land of the Dead (2005). This film has just taken that idea and made it more overt by setting the film in Afghanistan and directly referring to events such as 9/11 and people such as Bin Laden. The zombie-as-terrorist idea is one that works particularly well, with the zombies carrying out mindless killings in much the same way that terrorists are seen to mindlessly follow extremist Islamic doctrines. However, once the initial novelty of this film wears off after the first few scenes, it becomes much the same as any other zombie film. This isn’t helped by the fact that zombie Bin Laden barely appears in the film at all.
Osombie also strikes me as being much the same as any other pro-America film depicting the ‘War on Terror’. We can easily imagine the zombie terrorists in the film being replaced with human terrorists without the narrative being affected too significantly. We’re clearly meant to support the American troops, who are portrayed as brave and heroic individuals who often have to sacrifice their own lives for the greater good. The soldiers take great pleasure in hunting the zombies, constantly cracking jokes throughout and celebrating their kills. When zombie Bin Laden is eventually dispatched, this is presented to the viewer as the perfect happy ending. This seems to imply that the problem of terrorism has now been solved and that invading Afghanistan was the best way of doing this.
Horror fans probably won’t be shocked by anything that this film has to offer. The appearance of Bin Laden is the main attraction, and since he only clocks a short amount of screen time the rest of the film is disappointing. The plot of the film is completely ridiculous and had so much comedic potential, but the problem is that it’s played out like a serious film. The finished product therefore succeeds neither as a comedy-horror nor as a serious horror. Osombie is also a horror film that completely fails to scare. While some of the soldiers die at the hands of the zombies, they generally don’t seem like much of a threat, with one soldier easily able to pick a group of them off while the rest of her colleagues continue with whatever banal conversation they are having in the background. It seems like the film-makers tried to play it safe with this one, and unfortunately it’s backfired on them.