Once in a while, in the horror world, you need to watch some small budget movies. They exist for multiple reasons: to debut the careers of directors and actors, to make you realize how great other movies are, but also because sometimes, you just fall on some small gems that you would never have heard of otherwise. Some that come to mind, in my opinion, are “Hide & Creep” (2004) and “Night of Something Strange” (2016) (for which I had previously written a review). “Empire State of the Dead” is another small movie worth a watch.
Amidst a chaotic zombie apocalypse, chapters of “Empire State of the Dead” separate the film in segments where various characters in several different contexts are introduced to the viewers. Among them, a gangster-like interrogation that promises to end badly; a tale of two friends attempting to survive this craziness before walking in on a bizarre sex scene; a couple crossing paths with a ruthless trio who force them to participate in a sordid game; the entire anthology intertwined with a more principal storyline following a small clan of soldiers who are working their way through the hordes of the undead.
“Empire State of the Dead” was directed by Ron Bonk, who produced “Night of Something Strange” (2016) and also directed “She Kills” (2016) and “Clay” (2007). Like in every small-budget horror movie, there are numerous downsides, mainly regarding anything concerning camera quality or special effects. Then again, that could be the main concern for anyone who claims to dislike and avoid B-rated movies. However, if you put yourself in the mindset that this movie doesn’t have an overwhelming budget and that you should attempt to appreciate the ride for what it is, there are some interesting aspects to appreciate.
For the most part, the acting is above average. Some actors that come to mind are Wes Reid (actor name of Jonathan Straiton; director of “Night of Something Strange” (2016)) who interprets Olen Ray, the mafia-like gangster, interrogating his hostage at the very beginning of the film, in addition to Wayne W. Johnson (“Night of Something Strange” (2016), “Tales of Dracula” (2015) in the role of Draven, the maniacal leader of his trio of social misfits. Johnson, especially, is very entertaining to watch on-screen, possessing much potential in using his voice and facial expression for much more in the future of his acting career.
The special effects are under-average and not very present, for the most part of the motion picture. However, the finale of the film compensates, increasing the tempo and intensity, in addition to some decently gory effects. The movie’s soundtrack, throughout the different segments, is entertaining and appropriate for the respective contexts. To top it all off, the cover art is magnificent: phenomenal drawings reminiscent of retro artwork, designed by Devon Whitehead who also did fantastic jobs for the covers of “Night of Something Strange” (2016) and the upcoming “Romeo 3000” (2017).
All in all, “Empire State of the Dead” is a decent, entertaining zombie anthology that is worth a watch. I attribute it 3 stars out of 5.