GORE IN THE STORE
PARADISE Z *
Directed by Wych Kaosayananda.
Starring Milena Gorum, Alice Tantayanon, Damian Mavis, Michael S New.
USA / Thailand 2020 Certificate: 15, 81 mins.
Released on digital by (Yet) Another Distribution Company on January 4th, 2021.
Thai director Wych Kaosayananda follows his earlier zombie apocalypse / Mark Dacascos vehicle THE DRIVER with this loosely linked small scale two-character survivalist piece shot at an unused resort in Thailand. PARADISE Z, known in some quarters as 2 OF US, centralises the incidental roles Sylvia (Milena Gorum) and Rose (Alice Tantayanon) played in the earlier film which Kaosayananda has (confusingly) presented as the middle part of an intended trilogy.
The lack of dialogue in the first ten minutes introducing us to Sylvia and Rose’s life of relative luxury during the apocalypse will, in retrospect, turn out to be the most bearable stretch of the film. At the deserted resort, the attractive but vapid young couple dance, do some (rubbish) painting, go to the toilet, have showers so we can check out their beach bodies, go swimming so… we can check out their beach bodies, talk about what they miss about ‘normal’ life (driving, for some reason) and make themselves meals. The radio offers Romero-esque advice about what to do in the event of a confrontation with zombies – getting to water is a safe bet as they can’t swim, unlike the rotters in Jean Rollin’s comparatively awesome ZOMBIE LAKE – alongside information about the infection process (a little like a typical 2020 press conference) and the enduring hope of a safe haven called…’Haven’.
For a long time, PARADISE Z plays out as a zombie apocalypse movie that neglected to order some zombies. The ponderous pacing, abundant nudity and self-consciously arty – read ‘passionless’ – love scene suggest a horny 16-year-old boy’s conception of a world-ending scenario where the only survivors are a hot lesbian couple doing perimeter checks in short shorts. A select few modestly budgeted films have proven it is entirely possible, even at this especially over-saturated and weary stage of the zombie-apocalypse sub-genre, to make a character-driven undead flick with wit, heart and emotional / visceral impact: Jeremy Gardner’s THE BATTERY is a prime example.
This, as its title suggests, offers eye candy in the human and location department but audience engagement is low. The dialogue that surfaces after the (glorious) extended periods of silence involves characters pre-empting viewer disdain by starting sentences with “I know it’s a cliché but…” and unconvincingly attempting to convey the impact of living in isolation at what might be the end of humanity: “If my mind expands any more, I’m gonna snap!” The 80 minute feature is more than half over before anything of dramatic significance happens and, when that event (involving a WALKING DEAD-style commune of survivors), the ensuing action is poorly executed, and the outcome succeeds only in making the protagonists even less sympathetic.
There are fleeting efforts to sketch backstory for Sylvia and Rose, but the actors have little onscreen chemistry, and you’re most likely to be rooting for the roaring, enraged post-28 DAYS LATER zombies, whose own sense of threat is neutered by Kaosayananda’s apparently BAYWATCH-influenced over-use of slo-mo during attack scenes. This dull, unimaginatively open-ended farrago has nothing new to bring to the world of zombie flicks. Everything is second hand, including the ZOMBIE 3-style D.J. (Michael S New) who reinforces the general sense that humanity deserves this apocalypse by playing Nickelback’s cover of “I Will Always Love Your” for all those “hot single ladies out there”. If the music of Nickelback survives such a population-reducing global event, it might be worth drawing up that suicide pact now. Though we’ll leave it to less adventurous reviewers to employ the inevitable “PARADISE ZZZ” pun.