Most of us have gotten overly used to regarding most low-budget zombie comedies with liberal doses of suspicion, cynicism, even outright avoidance. And it’s understandable; the last decade or so has seen innumerable heaps of shit bastardising and shaming the foundations laid out by Mr. Romero. There are of course a few shining gems to be dredged from the sea of swill, although all too often, such bright hopes are slapped with a silly comedy title, and lost back into the mush. Here’s hoping that such a fate does not befall snow-capped Austrian flick Attack of The Lederhosenzombies because despite that title, it’s one of the smartest, coolest and most original zombie comedies in years.
Things start on a somewhat pedestrian note for this type of film, with a foolhardy entrepreneur creating a noxious chemical to power his artificial snow machine. Attending a demonstration of the device, a Russian would-be investor gets a face full of the green gas and promptly breaks out in boils and starts spewing green sludge. On the same mountain, snowboarders Steve and Josh, on the brink of a big sponsorship, are shooting a video to seal the deal. Prankster Steve blows it by getting naked for a distinctly unappreciative audience however and the two, together with Steve’s girlfriend, business partner and fellow boarder Branka, are left stranded on the mountain. They seek shelter in a rowdy tavern hosting an end-of-season party where the Russian investor is in attendance, and he’s looking a little worse for wear. As his infection spreads throughout the revellers, our snowboarding heroes find themselves in a bloody fight for survival.
It’s a fairly cut-and-paste plot for a zombie flick and for the first half, it seems like a pretty straight-up zombie film is on the cards, albeit an impressively-shot one with above-par comedic performances. Once we hit the tavern though, the film begins to open up and show its hand. Harsh green and red lighting gives the film’s second act a quasi-surrealist horror quality, and provides a striking contrast to the relentless white of the mountains outside. Our protagonists are back out into the cold come the third act, the night-time blues making for a third distinct aesthetic.
Visuals aside, Attack of The Lederhosenzombies finds its groove as soon as we enter the tavern largely due to the presence of bar owner Rita, who plays up to the tourists with long blonde plaits and of course, the customary garment of the film’s title. She is quickly revealed as quick-witted and resourceful, taking no shit from her more lewd guests and never without a plan when said excretory matter hits the fan, and it’s a smart play by the script to elevate her to main character status.
What makes writer-director Dominik Hartl’s film so enjoyable, as well as lifting it from the undead pack, is its refusal to settle on mere gore when it comes to the zombie slaying. That’s not to say it holds back however; while the bloodletting is fairly restrained for the most part, the riotous third act ups the ante spectacularly, reaching almost Braindead levels of gore. Gallons of blood is not the film’s raison d’être though, as almost without exception, every kill becomes a glorious gag, making for some genuinely jaw-dropping moments of carnage. In this respect, the film’s tone and comedic approach feel far closer to Peter Jackson’s splatstick classic than they do any 21st century zombie fare. Kills worthy of mention include a zombie getting popped in two by a snowboard’s leverage and one who is sliced wide open, causing everything – and I do mean everything – to fall out.
At less than 80 minutes and smartly paced, Attack of The Lederhosenzombies never gets the chance to outstay its welcome. It’s a surprisingly quiet zombie film too, even during the scenes of carnage when we are given the chance to drink in the comedic aspects of the violence rather than being pummelled into forced excitement. It is worth highlighting too that during such scenes, the practical effects are massively impressive for this fairly low-budget affair. Ignoring the fact that you’d be hard pushed to spot any zombie actually wearing lederhosen, the silliness of the film’s title endangers it to being pigeonholed with the indistinguishable slew of generic, laugh-free zombie comedies. This would be a real, real shame, as its tone is wildly different to such films and I would implore you not to dismiss it as such. It really feels as though Braindead was a key influence and in the eyes of this viewer at least, Dominik Hartl’s film can sit proudly with the very best the genre has to offer.
Words: Kevan Farrow (@KevanX)