As darkness falls in a small-town California, the undead rise from the graves, mausoleums and morgues and they're hungry! With an army of zombies thirsty for human flesh pounding at their doors and windows, can the townspeople survive till sunrise? It's time to lock the front door and get ready for the fright of your life.
‘Zombie Night’ establishes its credentials as a ‘TV movie’ straight away – it is shot very much in the style of a television drama rather than a cinematic one, and in order to grab the wary channel-hopper, it plunges straight into the thick of the action immediately.
Shirley Jones, veteran star of the Partridge Family amongst a myriad of other things, plays blind Nana. Her daughter Birdy (?) is played by Daryl Hannah. These are the main two characters in the opening of the story. They begin their roles screaming in fear and spend a lot of the running time in much the same hysterical fashion – until surprisingly, old Nana becomes one of the living dead herself.
In fact, the death count is impressive and the film does a good job of keeping the tension going. Characters who seemed designed to survive end up bitten/dead. The only problem is, zombies by their nature are limited. As a positive, the ‘hero’ can inflict injury on, or kill as many as necessary without displaying questionable morals – after all, they are dead anyway (there are a couple of occasions where blood spatters across the camera lens, which is an effect I like). As a negative, with such sustained one-note jeopardy, the onslaught of unrelenting tense situations becomes tiresome after a period of time.
There isn’t much time to get to know the characters, but there are some interesting developments in the lengths some will go to protect themselves – not once but twice does one character leave her friends – her neighbours of 18 years – to the mercy of the night-walkers in a doomed bid to save herself and her family. This raw, flawed action is a realistic characteristic. So is the teens’ habit of taking time out from tense life-threatening situations to do a bit of texting.
The young child Nathan is atrocious. It’s unfair to single him out, but surely better juveniles were available. He murmurs words statically through a barely opened mouth, and his fate is very disappointing – he survives.
‘Zombie Night’, as you may be able to tell from the title, isn’t going to revolutionise the zombie genre, although the idea that the living dead become powerless in the daytime is a convenient get-out clause. However, as one survivor points out, “What are we going to do when the sun goes down again?” As a messy, violent, occasionally graphic picture, it does the job nicely.