Play At Your Own Risk: A Netflix Advisory | J.C. Stumbles Upon ‘Wasting Away’ AKA ‘Aaah Zombies!’
by J.C. De Leon
We’ve all been in the same situation: a movie night, perusing through Netflix not wanting to see the same thing that you’ve seen a hundred times already. Sometimes all you have to go on is cover art and you wonder if it’s safe to play that film with the interesting cover art. “Play At Your Own Risk: A Netflix Advisory” is the column that will tell you whether or not it’s worth the risk on the most interesting cover art in the horror genre of the Instant Netflix library.
For this column, there are a few rules. First, the film must have been a direct to video release, or at least had a limited theatrical run. Secondly, little to no research will be done before viewing other than to see if it ever had a theatrical release.
In the search for interesting cover art, there’s not really a criteria that I look for. This week is a little different. It being Easter week and all, Brutal as Hell is focusing a little bit more than normal on zombies. While scouring Netflix I came across what looked like a high school yearbook photo of two zombies. Naturally, this piqued my interest, and the first thing that you might notice is that the poster has a different title than the title on Netflix. Aaah! Zombies is the working U.S. title for Wasting Away.
The film opens with black and white “found footage” from the military documenting an experimental serum given to soldiers that was supposed to strengthen them and make them more resilient on the battlefield – a “super soldier” if you will. The soldier in question appears to have an adverse reaction to the serum and dies on the table, only to become one of the moaning undead that we all lovingly refer to as zombies. The experiment having failed, all canisters of the serum are given a false label only to fall into the unsuspecting hands of some teenagers who are oblivious to their new-found undead state and simply think they’ve become immortal super soldiers.
The film does a really strange thing to illustrate how oblivious to their plight our main characters are. It starts out in all black and white up until the point where they’ve eaten the poisoned ice cream, where it then switches to full color, only to switch back to show the point of view of those humans who aren’t infected with the effects of the serum. In black and white, they are slow moving, moaning zombies, whereas, in color they are super strong. As zombies, these aren’t exactly the most terrifying, but the switches from reality to altered perspective are actually pretty funny. If you’ve ever wondered what exactly it is that goes through the mind of a zombie besides wanting brains, then this film will give you that perspective.
It’s marketed as the first film from the perspective of the zombies, and it makes for a really unique and fresh idea from mind of writer/director Matthew Kohnen and co-writer Sean Kohnen. Despite its unique take on the zombie genre though, it’s got moments of utter stupidity when our cast can’t seem to figure out that something is wrong, and that the something wrong is them, but that’s a minor quibble for a film as silly as this one. There aren’t a lot of great performances in this film as is to be expected in a direct to video zombie film. Wasting Away has got its moments of amusing comedy, and cute performances that will make for a great film to watch with a group if you’re seeking out a film to have fun with. It’s worth noting the only recognizable face among the cast is that of Richard Riehle (the ‘jump to conclusions mat’ guy from Office Space). It would have been nice for there to have been a few more kills and a lot more gore, but it’s more of a comedy than it is a true horror film. It’s not a total Netflix risk, there’s certainly an audience for a film like this, and it does in a way break some new ground.
Risk Level: Some risk, don’t watch alone.