Let’s get this out of the way up front: Zombie Hamlet is not a horror movie, nor does it try to be one. Although I hoped real zombies would pop up as part of the comedy of errors, that is not the case. Instead, Zombie Hamlet is a straightforward comedy that takes its name from the film within the film. The indie flick is directed by John Murlowski (Amityville: A New Generation) from a script by first-time screenwriter John McKinney.
Osric Taylor (Travis Wester) fancies himself an auteur with the desire to create a traditional film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But when the studio brass backs out of the project due to its lack of accessibility, Osric is forced to make the concept more appealing to the masses. Thus, Zombie Hamlet is born. By chance, a wealthy woman offers to finance the film. Osric sacrifices his vision in order to make the film on a lower budget, but the money stops coming when the financier dies mid-shoot. Osric and his crew must conceal her death from the rest of the workers in order to complete the project.
As a comedy, Zombie Hamlet is only mildly amusing. It’s entertaining enough, but it’s never laugh-out-loud funny. Instead, it plods along from plot point to plot point with some fun film references and deadpan humor along the way. I, for one, would have preferred to see the movie they were making. Some footage from the zombified version of Shakespeare’s classic is shown; it has ostensibly higher production values and looks like something you’d catch on Syfy for some mindless entertainment.
Much – but not all – of the Zombie Hamlet is filmed from the point of view of the behind-the-scenes documentarian, Lester (Brendan Michael Coughlin). It’s nearly enough to classify the picture as a found footage/mockumentary, but there are numerous examples of secondary camerawork to debunk it. Instead, the technique merely feels like an excuse for amateurish filmmaking. (Ironically, the DVD does not offer any special features, despite the movie itself making a big deal about filming behind-the-scenes footage for that purpose.)
Jason Mewes (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) is the highlight of the picture. He plays a Hollywood action hero who agrees to star in the movie, proving that he doesn’t need to resort to potty humor to be funny. His is not the only recognizable face, however. The film utilizes a number of old sitcom actors: June Lockhart (Lost in Space) as the financier, John Amos (Good Times) as her lawyer and Shelley Long (Cheers) as a local TV reporter. There are also brief cameos from Twilight actor Jackson Rathbone (who composed the film’s score) and Hulk Hogan (who starred in Murlowski’s Santa with Muscles).
Like any movie about film making, viewers who are involved in field will be able to relate to many of the struggles the crew members face in Zombie Hamlet. The concept is humorous, but it was likely more fun on set than the end result is to watch. Next time, deliver on the title for a real Zombie Hamlet.