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The Dead Walk, But Comedy Is Lifeless In Zombie Spoof

By Joel Wicklund in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 20, 2015 4:35PM

Artwork courtesy of ARC Entertainment.

Once upon a time, there was Airplane. A spoof of the Airport series and other disaster films of the '70s, Airplane was—and remains—flat-out hilarious. Packed wall-to-wall with jokes and little else, it had enough great ones to make it one of the best movie comedies of any era.

And oh dear lord, what unwatchable, misery-inducing tripe came in its wake!

Though the short-lived Police Squad TV series, the first of its Naked Gun movie spinoffs and the spy spoof Top Secret followed the model fairly successfully, even the creative team behind Airplane would soon sputter and decline badly. Somehow, a couple of them even ended up getting involved in the Scary Movie franchise, which is to Airplane what dog piss is to champagne.

The nothing-but-jokes formula is simply not enough to sustain most movies. Airplane and its few worthy companions are the exception to a rule that covers Spy Hard, Fatal Instinct, The Silence of the Hams, Wrongfully Accused, Plump Fiction, Not Another Teen Movie, Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th, Meet the Spartans, A Haunted House, A Haunted House 2...well, I have to end this list somewhere.

But you can add the new zombie spoof The Walking Deceased to that brutal inventory. Mainly a cheap, uninspired lampooning of the TV series The Walking Dead, the movie's lack of laughs begins with its barely-a-joke title and just gets worse from there. There are also shots at Warm Bodies, Zombieland, 28 Days Later and several other zombie flicks, and every one misses its mark.

Is this the worst of its kind? Surely not, but that doesn't justify anyone thinking writer and star Tim Ogletree's weak collection of gags masquerading as a screenplay was worth 88 minutes of anyone's time. To be fair, I laughed twice. There's a good LinkedIn gag and I liked the way actor Dave Sheridan aped Walking Dead star Andrew Lincoln's way of almost gargling "Carl!" as he calls for his son on the program.

But the cast isn't the problem here. Even Ogletree shows some onscreen presence worthy of much better than his own writing. This is simply exhausted territory, sent up in lazy fashion and filmed with all the style of a backyard "fan film" uploaded to YouTube. Yet somehow, it is making its way to a handful of theaters across the country while also out to lure undemanding VOD customers.

There's no point wasting time with a synopsis, as naturally nearly every plot point is a goof on one of its TV or movie inspirations. The movie is utterly forgettable and disposable on every level and only merits mention as the latest entry in a trend with dismaying longevity.

One lesson from all these punishingly bad parody movies is that simply referencing a movie is not the same as actually crafting a good joke. Even Airplane—as movie savvy as it is—doesn't insist on movie-specific references to earn its laughs. The plot (and whole stretches of exact dialogue) is actually lifted largely from the 1957 flight-in-crisis drama Zero Hour, which most Airplane fans have never seen. That's the beauty of the movie...the gags stand on their own.

The same is true for what may still be the best horror parody of all time, Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. Sure, you may enjoy the movie more if you know all the unique plot points of each classic Universal Frankenstein film, but Brooks and company crafted their send-up well enough that even those who only know the basic iconography of those movies can still find it funny. That can't be said of The Walking Deceased, in which every weak punch line depends completely on close knowledge of the source material.

Horror and comedy go hand-in-hand, and from The Old Dark House to Shaun of the Dead (which is referenced so badly in The Walking Deceased that you could easily miss it), there are countless examples of that successful marriage. The best of those combinations show a real affection for the horror genre as well as a sharp comic sensibility. The Walking Deceased has neither quality. It's just a laundry list of tossed-off pop culture winks, not undead, but truly dead on arrival.

The Walking Deceased. Directed by Scott Dow. Written by Tim Ogletree. Starring Tim Ogletree, Joey Oglesby and Dave Sheridan. 88 mins. No MPAA rating.

Opens Friday, March 20 at the AMC South Barrington 30 theaters and available on iTunes and various VOD services.