Zombie movies aren't anything new in cinema. In fact, we've come across so many films with different approaches, like Zombieland's comedic take and World War Z's apocalyptic angle. Well, we have a new zombie thriller to sink our teeth into, and it's a local one at that. Block Z, directed by Mikhail Red features a killer cast, including Julia Barretto, Joshua Garcia, Maris Racal, McCoy de Leon, Ian Veneracion, Dimples Romana, and Ina Raymundo.
This Star Cinema film follows the story of four med school friends as they try to survive the zombie outbreak that has taken over their campus. The group's mission? Try to make it to the hospital deck right in time for their helicopter rescue. But, what seems to be a countdown for liberation is also a countdown till death as they put their life on the line with every move they make.
Here's my honest, spoiler-free review of the film:
What I Liked About It
It attempted to weave many "zombie" elements at once.
I'm no film expert, but it doesn't take one to know that producing a zombie thriller film of this scale is no easy feat. The execution of the visual and sound effects, coupled of course, with the acting, should all come seamlessly together to create a believable and truly horrifying movie experience. I liked how this movie attempted to do a zombie film of this scale, a.k.a. a zombie outbreak that went nationwide. It also had the necessary elements that one looks for in any zombie thriller: a genesis account of the virus, a hysterical outbreak, and all the suspense scenes before the characters break into combat mode.
The thriller scenes were exciting.
Perhaps the core of any zombie film would be those suspense scenes where the protagonists run for their lives and kill zombies while they're at it. Such scenes are exciting, suspenseful, and even stressful, but that's just a mark of its success. Well, Block Z was able to pull off these scenes, as evidenced by the cinema's collective screaming. It was also cool how they utilized most areas of the campus, as well as different modes of attacks according to the situation. You'll never know how they'll defend themselves next, especially when you're locked inside a small vicinity.
It had a good mix of characters.
Life-or-death situations put relationships to the test. I liked how the movie put in a good mix of characters who not only had different personalities but shared close relationships with people within their group. For example, Mario (played by Ian Veneracion) is the father of Princess Joy or "PJ" (played by Julia Barretto), and the beginning of the film shows their struggles in reconnecting. PJ is also the love interest of Lucas (played by Joshua Garcia). PJ's coldness towards her elusive father Mario softens up throughout the movie, while she and Lucas also warm up to each other as they fight for survival together. I appreciated how the movie also accounted for such dynamics.
What I Didn't Like About It
The cinematography wasn't spot-on.
The intention of putting on a good zombie show was there, but the execution was not. Many scenes had a lot of potential. I mean, yes, they were scary because they were jumpscares, but the scenes didn't get to maximize their full horror factor by using on-point visual and sound effects. Thriller scenes aside, the cinematography was off the entire film, even in the ordinary scenes, which was something I didn't expect coming into the cinema.
Aside from the visuals, some scenes that were meant to scare were ruined due to bad timing, so they came off as a little comedic. The acting of some zombies also decreased its overall scare factor.
Some zombie details weren't believable.
You know how zombies are characterized differently per movie or series? For example, some zombies run fast (like in Zombieland) while others are rather slow but sprint once they get a whiff of human blood. In Block Z's case, the zombies weren't clearly defined. Did they have an acute sense of smell? Did they rely on sound? Can they immediately recognize human presence? I think the movie lacked zombie characterization. In effect, some thriller scenes weren't believable (e.g. when PJ and Lucas were hiding under the car; Lucas accidentally pressed him arm on glass but the zombies didn't sense them at all despite being really close to them).
The scale was too grand.
As mentioned, the movie attempted to incorporate many zombie elements at once, but it did so to a fault. Perhaps if it had focused on just one "zombie angle," like say, containing the virus within the campus (which would make sense because PJ and her friends are med school seniors), it would have been a gripping story. Or, perhaps if the struggle was to capture just one runaway zombie who might infect the entire school and cause an outbreak, that would have been an interesting take, too. However, the movie's scale was too grand and it even went full-on combat mode in the tail-end of the film, which made it feel a little disjointed. Couple that with the lack of cinematography, and the movie wasn't entirely arresting and believable.
So Should You Watch It?
In a nutshell, Block Z was an ambitious zombie thriller that had all the elements of an exciting zombie film but lacked when it came to proper execution. That said, it's still pretty exciting to watch and makes for good entertainment if you want to kick back, relax, and enjoy a good old jumpscare film with friends.
Block Z is now showing in cinemas. Watch the trailer below:
Check out the full list of cinemas below: