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While seeking out movies to review for the 2005 Zombie Extravaganza here at MCFTR, I ran across a little Canadian flick called Enter...Zombie King. After reading the description, it was a no-brainer that this was the first on my list of films to see for this particular project. Why, you ask? It's a movie where zombies fight professional wrestlers to the sounds of a psychobilly soundtrack. On paper, this was my dream movie.
I can't say that I was disappointed in this one. While this may not be the best or bloodiest zombie film ever made, there's plenty to make up for it. Sure, it's noticably low-budget and poorly-acted, but you're reading the rants of a Troma fan, so I can't exactly fault a film for that alone. The real charm here is the film's colorful settings, excellent direction, and most importantly, its startling originality.
Here's the premise: a professional wrestler named Ulysses (for wrestling fans out there, think "Patriot" Del Wilkes) who wears a red, white, and blue mask is on his way in town to visit a couple of friends. He quickly learns that an old rival named Tiki has captured a batch of zombies and plans on using them as his opponents in a wrestling event. Ulysses isn't too thrilled to find out about this, so he shows up at the event with his buddies The Blue Saint and Mercedes.
Just as Ulysses expects, Zombies do wind up running amok and killing a few hapless victims, so the good guys try to pin the blame on Tiki. But the zombies who are on the loose aren't Tiki's zombies. Tiki has domesticated his wrestling zombies to the point where they don't just feed on anyone. It turns out that there's someon else out there wrangling zombies for not-so-noble purposes. His name, as you might expect is Zombie King. Zombie King's flesh-eaters prey on a hapless couple who made the mistake of buying condoms and parking (the horror!) as well as one half of the local lesbian gas station attendant couple.
It's about here that I really got a little more excited than I should have been, because the Sheriff who shows up on the scene is portrayed by none other than Jim "the Anvil" Neidhart, Canadian wrestling legend and former multiple-time WWF Tag Team Champion as one half of the Hart Foundation. Neidhart even does his trademark goatee-stroking and "Yeah baby yeah!" chants that made him so popular to begin with in the wrestling circuit.
Anyway, Ulysses recruits the help of his friend Mr. X (who happens to be a government agent) and gets things cleared up with Tiki. Together, Ulysses, Tiki, X, Saint, and Mercedes go off in search of the Zombie King, as well as his sidekicks The Murdelizer and The French Vixen. Eventually, their trail leads them to an abandoned amusement park where Zombie King has assembled his lair, a dark and gloomy warehouse where he experiments with genetically mutated zombies and commands his legions from the comfort of a wrestling ring. It turns out that the villains also all happen to be wrestlers too. The good grapplers and the bad grapplers finally have their showdown amongst the horde of walking dead.
Enter...Zombie King is silly. It's real silly. But that's why it works. We are sucked in to a world where comic book panels come to vibrant life, where wrestlers walk around with full costumes and masks on in public without anyone batting an eye, and where zombie attacks are reported on the news the same way a regular old robbery would. Despite the lack of a major budget (the film was made for about $220,000, and that's probably Canadian dollars, which means about seven dollars and thirty-nine cents American) director Stacey Case has an eye for settings and does a terrific job creating a mood. The punk rock and rockabilly-infused musical score provides a nice backdrop to the fantasy environment as well, and you'd be amazed what neat tricks can be done with simple lighting, smoke effects, and shadow.
As far as the zombies are concerned, they're a little tamer than the usual walking dead, but at least they follow the basic rules of zombiedom (with the exception of the trained wrestler zombies, but I think that we can give them a pass considering that they're trained wrestler zombies.) The makeup jobs are fairly minimal, but they work well enough to let us know that we're dealing with pretty basic flesh-eaters here.
The acting leaves a lot to be desired (and the Canadian accent on the All-American hero Ulysses is a nice and probably unintentional touch) but that's part of what makes it all work. In a way, this film seems a little like something Troma would do, although it's far more subdued and subtle than something Lloyd Kaufman would put his name on.
The only thing that really leaves a lot to be desired is the finale. The three major fight scenes (Ulysses vs. Zombie King, Saint vs. Murdelizer, and Mercedes vs. Vixen) are fun at first, but all kind of drag on after a while. The "conversion" of all the zombies into domesticated seems like a cheap cop-out of an ending, and the implied necropheliac lesbian scene before the credits roll is both disturbing and disappointing.
Overall, I'd recomment Enter...Zombie King to anyone who likes a good campy flick, or for anyone who likes any combination of wrestling, zombies, and/or psychobilly music. I'd probably recommend it even more if it were released under its original title of Zombie Beach Party, but considering the lack of zombies who ever reach the beach in the movie, I can see why they chose the title they did for this release.
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