If you’re really (and I mean, really) into old science fiction B-movies (I’m talking deep tracks), then maybe Astro Zombies is for you.
There are some movies that seem to have this special, inherent purpose to entertain not when they come out but years later. Incompetent, unwatchable, and misguided, these films act as time capsules which can show us the nature of human folly as it existed in entertainment decades ago. That’s the only thing that gives Astro Zombies any life today, and if you’re really (and I mean, really) into old science fiction B-movies (I’m talking deep tracks), then maybe Astro Zombies is for you. And lucky for everyone, there’s a RiffTrax commentary with this release. Funny and irreverent criticism of other movies has practically become its own genre, and you won’t see me complaining about it.
There’s not a lot I can say to really wrangle in this plot, other than a mad scientist is killing people so he can use their corpses for reanimation experiments—performing complete blood transfusions (which, to my recollection, goes unexplained and seems totally pointless) and sending signals into their brain via wires and radio signals or some such. The point is, a crazy man is bringing soulless, undead monsters into existence, and their inevitable escape poses a threat to society (and by society, I mean two or three women in the movie. Extras are expensive).
The movie is incompetent in every imaginable way, from concept to execution. Although it doesn’t reach the garbage level of other much-loved bad movies such as Things or The Room, the shoddy craftsmanship has a certain je ne sais quoi—an earnestness, if you will—that allows you to spot it instantly. This would make prime real estate for bad movie night shindigs with your friends, but the unfortunate truth is that despite its nonsense and stupidity, Astro Zombies achieves its crappiness level mostly by being boring as hell—fascinatingly boring…just not fascinatingly boring enough.
There’s a certain threshold I would assume most other viewers share with me, and that’s where complete disregard for proper cinematic conventions treads the line between hilarious and frustrating. It’s fun to look at Astro Zombies as a bizarre cultural object, with its phobias of scientific advancement (radio signals and medical procedures used to create power and cause destruction), crummy lighting, absent production design, and mind-bogglingly bad acting. The worst offender of all is director Ted V. Mikels, who is woefully unable to shoot a scene with any sort of suspense. Whoever edited this film also seriously dropped the ball. Shots last agonizingly long amounts of time and for whatever reason, scenes transition with near-subliminal cuts to a camera rapidly panning across a blue-grey background. Also terrifically subpar are the makeup effects, the titular Astro Zombies being nothing more than men in gray slacks and brown blazers with inarticulate alien-skull masks. It’s a smorgasbord of bad but something that probably only works with the RiffTrax commentary, or a group of friends and your liquor of choice. | Nic Champion
Kino Lorber is releasing Astro Zombies on Blu-ray on October 11. Despite their efforts, the color timing was an absolute disaster. It’s hard to tell if the movie is blue in attempt to create day for night or if the color processor let the film sit in the dye a little too long. There are three commentaries included in the disc, one is by RiffTrax, the other by director Ted V. Mikels, and the third by horror film historian Chris Alexander.