Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Evil in the Time of Heroes: Billy Zane in Greece

Evidently, Herodotus and Thucydides lied to us, or at least they did not tell us the full truth. Maybe they assumed nobody would have believed them if they chronicled the zombie outbreak that terrorized ancient Athens, but that means the Greek capital will be completely unprepared when thee next zombie apocalypse strikes again two thousand years later. Fortunately, a mysterious immortal has also returned to offer some sage advice in Yorgos Noussias’s Evil in the Time of Heroes (trailer here), which is now available on DVD from Doppelganger Releasing.

Noussias does not waste a lot of time on exposition, but this is a zombie movie, how much backstory do you really need? We might as well just jump right in with Lt. Kleanth Vakirtzis, one of Greece’s last surviving military officers and his rag-tag band of survivors as they run like all get-out from the rampaging zombie hordes. They have just seen poor Argyris die from impalement, but when they take refuge in a flat, they find his doppelganger alive and well. Frankly they find the two Argyrises utterly baffling, but they really do not have time to worry about it.

Major characters die at a faster clip in Heroes than in The Walking Dead. Plus, the clock is ticking on even greater destruction. NATO has set an evacuation deadline, after which they will commence carpet bombing, because so far, the zombie outbreak remains contained within Greece, their most expendable member state. However, the mysterious Prophitis (Billy Zane in a Jedi hoodie-cape) remembers what happened during the first zombie apocalypse and offers up cryptic clues for their ultimate deliverance.

Apparently, Heroes is a prequel to Nousias’s prior zombie outbreak thriller, but it seems so self-contained, it is hard to see where it would link up to the earlier, later film. At times it is also almost feverishly surreal, with scenes resembling Bergman’s Seventh Seal, but with marauding zombies in the background, and the foreground. Noussias probably did not even care that his narrative does not make a heck of a lot of sense. Instead, he allows energy, attitude, and gore to trump logic at every turn.

Even though they are dying like flies, the cast deserves credit for their gameness. Andreas Kontopoulos and Eftyhia Yakoumi forge some appealing romantic chemistry as Lt. Vakirtzis and Maj. Olga, whom he meets in the flat owned by the second Argyris’s father. Meletis Georgiadis and Pepi Moschovakou are also unusually affecting (by zombie flick standards) as the grieving Meletis and his lover Marina.

When Heroes first hit the festival circuit in 2009, it probably gave zombie fans new hope the genre could reinvigorate itself. However, mostly through no fault of its own, it suffers in light of subsequent zombie breakout films and reinventions, particularly Train to Busan and I am a Hero. What was once utter bedlam, now appears a tad restrained, in comparison. Still, when judged on its own bloody insane merits, Heroes is jolly eager to please and raring to make a gory mess. Enthusiastically recommended for fans of zombies and Billy Zane, Evil in the Time of Heroes is now available from Doppelganger Releasing.