Disaster L.A.: The Last Zombie Apocalypse Begins Here (Blu-ray Review)

160x160disasterIt’s almost chic to question and call out the over-saturation of zombie/infected flicks on the market.  For the last five plus years, in part due to the massive success of The Walking Dead, in part due to the manner in which low budget flicks can strive on the genre, it seems every week there’s another couple movies on the shelves.  Every studio is trying to grasp onto the cash cow and ride it into the ground, trying to find the next big low cost, high return feature that can be pumped out annually to line the coffers, and everyone thinks that their idea, their take on the shambling and/or running dead will revolutionize and be forever aped, homaged and called back to in years to come.

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Disaster L.A.: The Last Zombie Apocalypse Begins Here (yep, that’s the title) fills a major gap in the Warner Bros. library, as their offerings in the zombie sub-genre of horror were meager to almost non-existant.  Writer/director Turner Clay’s second take on zombies (after 2011’s State of Emergency) isn’t the kind of film one should brag about, though.  If anything, the insanely low MSRP for a new release should be taken as a sign, a blazing exclamation point in the middle of a twenty foot yellow triangle foreboding a less than memorable or unique experience is about to unfold.  From constant groan or head-shake inducing character actions to ridiculous effects, stock characters, and eye catching cheapness, there’s little to like here.

Los Angeles, home of four million people, with a population density of over seven thousand people per square mile, is a ghost town, but this isn’t weeks or months after a disaster (hint: it’s due to the budget).  Meteors strike, unleashing a toxic gas that proves fatal to most who inhale it, who in kind turn into flesh-devouring undead, and a group of friends find themselves in a situation that could be readily handled if they’ve been paying attention to any movies the last five years: apocalypse.

Disaster L.A. isn’t bad enough to be humorous in its ineptitude.  No, this is the kind of flick that is frustrating, the kind of awful that slows down the runtime as every minute there’s something to groan about, the kind of putrid that almost seems unfair to criticize, the failures so glaring and blatant.  With so many zombie films done right over the years, the genre tweaked and almost perfected by some auteurs, it’s hard to understand why and how such a half-baked offering can even garner studio support.  Ask yourself, purveyors of fine cinema, would you watch a zombie flick that not once in its runtime featured a scene that had more than three zombies in a single scene?

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That isn’t exaggeration.  There are never more than three zombies in any scene or shot, and the above picture isn’t an exaggeration of the special effects qualities found in within.  Fact is, there are hardly any extras in the film.  There’s no rush of people trying to escape, there’s no hordes or throngs of survivors or the infected.  Characters pop up into the story like they were parachuted in, and zombies are spread so sparingly that it’s hard to truly feel any type of tension or pressure.  There’s no inter-human drama or intrigue, no character development, and no strategy.  Characters don’t learn or adapt.  The survivors are offed one by one in growingly ridiculous fashion, almost as if they wanted to just be done shooting so they could hit up catering.

Amateur hour moments of this flick include: television news broadcast scrolls that never update, despite the change in situations, insanely awful car crashes that make Asylum flicks look realistic, plastic traffic cones that can bust car windows, plastic masks that have visible seams on the infected, characters pushing doors in the direction they’d need to open (instead of away so as to hold it shut), and enough bad decisions to make a viewer scream at the characters on screen.  Who in their right minds, in a zombie epidemic, uses an elevator, not knowing the situation above or below them, or stop their car entirely in fear of a single stationary person who may be infected?  Where are the police, the looters, the army, children of any kind, or even bands of rednecks gleeful at their opportunity to shoot at people with no recourse?

The title of this film says it all: disaster.  There’s no shortage of quality zombie flicks out there, from the bizarre, to even the somewhat comedic.  What there isn’t, though, is enough time in life to waste on such shoddy efforts.  Fans of bad acting, ridiculous storytelling, horrendously cheap production design, awful effects, and mind-numbingly stupid character decisions may have found the new golden standard in Disaster L.A..  Everyone else, forget you found this one and move along.



Encoding: AVC MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: Despite a hefty, constant grain to the film, detail levels stay consistent and strong throughout the runtime.  Textures are quite decent, finer facial details stand out, and there’s nary a truly bad looking scene…at least not due to the disc’s encode.

Depth: Picture depth is lacking, for the most part.  In early scenes, CG backdrops after a few blocks are incredibly flat and kill the picture, while the strong grain levels don’t quite help details in further back layers.

Black Levels: Mediocre.  With a mixture of day and night shots, there are no scenes that get drowned out or crushed, even in low-lit moments, but the overall lack of strength in darker tones can be concerning.

Color Reproduction: The aesthetics of this film have a more bland, muted, dry, and somewhat dark atmosphere to them, and this visual style is consistent from start to finish.  There are a couple scenes that have a green tint to them, and the contrast boosting certainly doesn’t help what few whites are in the flick.

Flesh Tones: Spot on, for the most part, but considering zombies wear dollar store masks in this flick, it’s hard to really judge how they’d look if done in a less, well, awful manner.  If anything there’s a minor amount of heat affecting characters, but this can again be summed up due to the contrast boost and film’s look.

Noise/Artifacts: Despite the somewhat shaky, jerky motion of the camera and the darker sequences spread throughout the film, there really are no concerns when it comes to compression artifacts or other disc-caused video issues.  Some edge enhancement can be found, but it’s minor and rare amidst the runtime.

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Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Nightmare.  This is a stupidly loud film, and the emphasis is on the word stupid.  From the opening scenes at a party, this track is awkward and imbalanced, with somewhat unnatural shifts in volume, where volume spikes don’t quite fit.  The sequences featuring meteor strikes do have strength to them, but there are scenes that involve no such massive impacts that are significantly louder and more emphatic.   Soundtrack should never overpower natural disaster, and that happens within a minute of what is supposed to be the audio highlight of the flick.

Low Frequency Extension: There’s decent bass heft and plenty of rumble found in this track, and the levels and strength are never one of the issues plaguing this release.

Surround Sound Presentation: What a tease.  The opening sequence makes you think you’re getting a film that will fill the room appropriately, with party noise flooding around you, but as scenes go to corners of the house, there’s still surround noise coming from where there would be no people.  Directionality is a joke, movement is non-existant (even with freaking meteors flying above before crashing), and let’s just face it, this amateur level film has amateur level sound design.

Dialogue Reproduction: After the opening sequence, I did appreciate the way spoken word sounded appropriate for the settings, be it closed rooms or open air, but there was a caveat in that sentence.  The opening features dialogue that is far too sharp, booming over other elements in an unnatural, poorly mixed manner.

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The only supplement on this release is the inclusion of a Digital Copy of the film.  There are no disc-based extras.

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Disaster L.A.: The Last Zombie Apocalypse Begins Here‘s review thankfully ends here.  Look, the runtime is a short (albeit dragging) 83 minutes chock full of frustration on every level.  The Blu-ray features uneven presentation elements and no supplements.  Even the low price point of this release isn’t in the least bit tempting upon viewing this film.  This is the kind of movie where summoning up a compliment would take serious thought and deliberation, and this is in no way an exaggeration.  I may sound like a negative Nancy by saying all of this, but this is one to seriously avoid.  With studios releasing a trove of horror classics every year around this time, there are better ways to spend time and money.

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Writer/reviewer, gamer, father, technology early adopter. Formerly published on the now-defunct Project-Blu and Highdefdigest.

1 Response to “Disaster L.A.: The Last Zombie Apocalypse Begins Here (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    I’m taking heed of your warning and staying away from this!