On paper, Witness Infection sounds like the perfect direct-to-video movie. Billed as a mishmash of mob and zombie tropes, it falls somewhere between actual parody and earnest attempt on a local news budget.
Starting on a remote hunting trip between an inept suburban hunter and his Italian stereotype neighbor, it’s revealed that beloved neighborhood eatery ended up serving human remains, which turned anyone who ate it into a zombie. I mean… sorta. They’re definitely mindless, but that would imply a lot about the characters pre-transformation. They’re also radically inconsistent, which is referenced by the characters in the film in one of many meta attempts at self-referential humor that doesn’t quite stick the landing.
To add a sense of humanity to the mix, the story focuses on two rival mob families who are attempting to make peace through a wedding, playing off the popular assumption that New Jersey mobsters who’ve been relocated to suburban Temecula, California still follow the logic and reason of the middle ages. Oh, that’s another thing, both of the rival families have been placed in witness protection, but ended up being relocated to the same place.
Anyway, the zombie issue slowly comes about as Carlo (Robert Belushi) refuses to marry the rival boss’s daughter, instead choosing to follow his heart. As the characters slowly (like, so very slowly) come to realize that people are being turned into flesh-eating monsters, they constantly quip references to mob movies back and forth. Never really at appropriate moments, but more like a random quote generator had a final polish on the script.
Then there’s Rose (Monique Coleman), a living, breathing 70s-era blaxploitation caricature who shows up inexplicably in the third act. Complete with a shotgun, she aggressively monologues about how she won’t be the black character who dies first, citing numerous examples of films with black characters who were killed by monsters.
Despite the fact that it’s all played clearly as a farce, it never quite manages to settle on a tone that’s convincing enough to assure you it’s parody. Neither the script from Carlos Alazraqui and co-star Jill-Michele Melean, nor the direction from Andy Palmer manages to find its footing, while the overarching plot of a zombie infestation never quite manages to be conveyed as a threat anyone should take seriously. It’s a shame, too, given the fact the zombie genre itself has once more found itself worn and tired, a lighthearted lampooning would’ve gone over well.
Witness Infection is available on VOD now