The Mad (2007) Review

I love zombie flicks, because you can do so much with them. Zombies are great for monster movies, because zombies are easy to understand, tap into the human fear of being eaten alive and are scary as hell because of their numbers. Zombies are also great for social commentary for two reasons: 1. zombies look like humans, therefore their actions can be attributed to humans metaphorically and 2. zombies always force the human survivors to behave in ways that reveal something about society at large. I enjoy zombie flicks so much that I will wade through low-budget B-movie cesspools to find the pearl in the quagmire. The Mad is definitely not that pearl.

With a low-budget film, every dollar counts, so I’ll understand if the production value is lackluster or if the acting is shoddy in parts. However, one aspect that doesn’t have to cost anything is the script. There’s no reason for a horrible screenplay. Unfortunately, this is exactly what the writers have given us.

Billy Zane (who’s sadly fallen far from better films) plays Jason Hunt, a doctor on vacation with his girlfriend, his angst-filled daughter (Maggie Castle) and her boyfriend. They make a pit stop at a country festival not far from a few farms. Unfortunately, one of the farms feeds its cattle with an antibiotic that turns the beef – not the cows, mind you, the actual meat of the cows – into carnivorous blobs. When a few pounds of ground beef gets delivered to a local diner and gets turned into the day’s special, customers become zombies.

Jason and company team up with the short order cook and his stepdaughter (Jordan Madley) and for a moment it seems like there’s going to be a little bit of character development, but there isn’t. Instead, these roles were created to spread out lines for a horribly unfunny exchange about whether or not the people were turning into zombies. Once that’s over, characters literally allow themselves to be eaten, almost conceding their uselessness to the film.

The zombies are also disappointing. First of all, they’re not really zombies; they’re mad people. Think 28 Days Later without the running. They also appear to be materialistic, since they loot vehicles. Jason is even able to distract them with free t-shirts and hats. I’d like to think that this was an attempt at social commentary ala George Romero and Dawn of the Dead, but this portion was so short-lived it seemed tacked on.

Director John Kalangis also makes some ill-conceived choices. Every few minutes or so, he flashes to shots that have little to no relevance to the current scene. At one point a character faints and suddenly we’re looking at a bunch of cows for no good reason. It’s almost as if these transitions served to replace the stingers reserved for cats and birds leaping out of the shadows.

On the upside, Maggie Castle and Jordan Madley are both wonderful to look at. I’m just impressed that they don’t show any skin.