Late night at the morgue and one of the attendants wheels a corpse into the storage room for the bodies for Dr. Swartz (Kevin J. O'Neill) to inspect. He so is revolted by the deceased that the attendant throws up into a carrier box, but Dr Swartz is understanding and tells him that after he has cleared up the blood that is leaking from the body, he can go home early if he is not feeling too well. A few minutes later, he is mopping the floor and hears a knocking from one of the chambers, and opens its door to investigate - a big mistake, because the body grabs him and tears out his throat. The zombies have arrived...
Yes, it's a horror film made in the first decade of the twenty-first century, so the villains just had to be zombies, didn't they? Automaton Transfusion (the title is unexplained) was a low budget shocker filmed in Florida, the debut effort for then-twenty-five-year-old writer and director Steven C. Miller. In its favour, it was blessed with some excellent special effects, but to its detraction, that was apparently what most of the thought went on as this was pretty much starved of originality. Even by this stage in the zombie revival, a sense of "seen one, seen them all" was beginning to set in, and this did little to dispel that.
Still, this was not a glossy Hollywood production, and Miller and his team achieved a level of professionalism that belied the lack of cash they were working with. The camerawork let it down somewhat, with shakycam taken a degree too far and a choppy look to the visuals that means the image did not flow to any satisfying standard, making it appear like something downloaded off the internet. But the actors did well enough considering the common reaction to the zombie takeover was that old standby, the shouting and the swearing, and the fact that their characters were as shallow as the undead were.
Our heroes are Chris (Garrett Jones), accompanied by his cheerleader girlfriend Jackie (Juliet Reeves), and his friends Scott (William Howard Bowman) and Tim (Rowan Boursaid), not the coolest blokes around but they get along with each other and that's all that matters. After about five minutes of establishing them, we gradually become aware that there are zombies on the loose who are picking off the minor cast members and making their way up to those actors who have the most lines. There's a party going on in a isolated house in the woods that night, so the boys set out for it oblivious, as almost everyone is until it's too late, that their lives are in danger.
You know, what with the collapse of society and all. It all appears to have occured in the space of one day, as one minute there are a couple of instances of people getting eaten, the next there are hordes of flesh-munchers roaming the land. Fair enough, but you can see where this is all headed if you've ever so much as looked at a poster for one of these films, although to Miller's credit he does have a twist up his sleeve. Well, not so much a twist as a way of ending this that is no ending at all as it all leads up to that dreaded caption "To Be Continued" when simply adding five minutes to the end could have wrapped things up nicely. This may bring out some resentment in the viewer, especially as the film is so short, but at least Miller was honest in pointing out he couldn't think of a way to finish. Or maybe it's a devious ploy to get us to watch the sequel? Music by Jamey Scott.
[Momentum release the Region 2 DVD under the title Zombie Transfusion. The only extra is a trailer.]