'The ReZort': Frightfest Review

The Rezort -Still 1 -H 2016
Courtesy of Matador Pictures
Finally! 'Jurassic Park' with zombies.

A zombie safari becomes a human bloodbath in Steve Barker’s glossy pulp thriller.

After the zombie apocalypse, will rich tourists still be able to enjoy luxury foreign holidays? For sure, according to The ReZort, a witty new twist on the living-dead genre from British director Steve Barker, whose big-screen career began in 2008 with the first chapter in the low-budget Nazi-zombie franchise Outpost. Screened at FrightFest in London last week, Barker’s most polished feature to date still suffers from some basic flaws, chiefly in the screenplay department. But it also contains enough smart touches to remain consistently engaging, from parallels with Haitian slave rebellions to sly political commentary on the ethics of big game hunting, drone warfare and immigration policy. An obvious booking choice for genre-friendly festivals, it should have cultish fanboy potential on both big and small screens.

The action takes place in a near-future Europe, 10 years after a devastating global war between humans and zombies that killed two billion people. Peace and stability has now been restored, but millions still live in refugee camps. Never letting a good crisis go to waste, an unscrupulous leisure corporation now exploits the surviving zombies for profit, keeping them in heavily guarded reservations on a private island complex called The ReZort. High-rolling humans come to the island on safari, blowing out the brains of the captive undead with sadistic relish. What could possibly go wrong? More worryingly, have none of these people seen any of the Jurassic Park movies?

Sticking firmly within disaster-movie conventions, the core characters are a mismatched bunch with murky back stories and secret agendas. The main dramatic focus is on Melanie (Jessica De Gouw), who is struggling to come to terms with a tragic family history, and her war-vet boyfriend Lewis (Martin McCann). In a nod to his role on the TV drama Fear the Walking Dead, Dougray Scott (Mission: Impossible II, Enigma, Taken 3) plays Archer, a tight-lipped mystery man with ace sharp-shooting skills. Gruff and granite-faced, his performance is hardly subtle, but at least he brings a glimmer of genuine movie-star charisma. Meanwhile, solo traveler Sadie (Elen Rhys) has come to drown her sorrows in zombie blood after being jilted at the altar. 

Inevitably, problems start to arise soon after the tourists set out on safari. Hackers breach the ReZort computer systems and the zombies break free from captivity, turning on their human zookeepers and would-be killers. The hunters get captured by the game, chased into crumbling warehouses and subterranean service tunnels by ferocious, face-chomping, flesh-hungry ghouls. At this point, The ReZort begins to resemble an extended first-person shooter game, which is neither very gripping nor very original. But a final shock twist packs real satirical bite, elevating a routine thriller into a timely commentary on Europe’s current immigration crisis.

A clear stylistic leap forward from his trashy Outpost films, The ReZort is Barker’s glossiest effort to date, transcending its pulpy genre trappings thanks to some ravishing sun-drenched vistas (shot on the Spanish island of Mallorca) and an attractive, professional, semi-famous cast. Its sole serious flaw its Paul Gerstenberger’s amateurish script, which weakens a strong basic premise with clunky dialogue and crude caricatures, notably two relentlessly dorky gamer-bros who belong in another movie. These are irritants, but not so bad as to ruin the guilty pleasure of this one-way trip to the sunny side of Hell.

Production companies: Matador Pictures, The Captain Starlight Company, UMedia
Cast: Dougray Scott, Jessica De Gouw, Martin McCann, Claire Goose, Elen Rhys
Director: Steve Barker
Screenwriter: Paul Gerstenberger
Producers: Nick Gillott, Karl Richards, Charlotte Walls
Cinematographer: Roman Osin
Editor: Martí Roca
Music: Zacarías M. de la Riva

Not rated, 93 minutes