Synopsis – An employee at a weapons factory discovers that an energy drink turns his co-workers into zombies
My Take – Over the years, the horror sub-genre of zombie films have had their fair share of comedy mashups, with the recent entry, Anna and the Apocalypse, even throwing in musicals into the mix. The endgame is simple, when done right, the resulting film manages to bring out oodles of laughter with the right amount of horror, however, when the makers miss the bus, we kinda get this film.
Director Lin Oeding, has spent most of his career being a renowned stuntman, providing him ample opportunities to work with esteemed filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, Antoine Fuqua, among others, hence his jump to behind the camera for his directorial debut, the underrated Jason Mamoa led underrated actioner Braven, seemed organic. However, it is never clear what convinced him into picking this muddled feature as his sophomore effort.
Sure, there’s been an influx of workplace based horror tinged in the last few years with the likes of the James Gunn written The Belko Experiment, Mayhem and school-set Cooties being employed to serve up darkly funny entertainment.
But all this film does is just peek over the cubicles of its higher flying representatives, copy their reports before handing in a very similar looking piece of work with a different title and shinier cast.
While earlier on it does feel like writers Ian Shorr and Peter Gamble Robinson have some funny ideas to thrown in between its oblique euphemisms and open criticism of the modern working world, but from the moment the zombies come into play, it just leaves all the development in the recycle bin.
It is also surprising how, considering the talent involved, the film feels very amateurishly produced, and it never help that the acting isn’t great either. The jokes are mostly hit and miss, and for its genre, the violence is also surprisingly mild.
The story follows Desmond (Brenton Thwaites), a slacker working in the accounts department of Ammotech, one of the world’s leading arms manufacturer. When he’s not busy mastering corporate jargon, he works on his passion project, a crappy 8-bit video game, a fact he hides from his lifelong crush Samantha (Jane Levy) who works in the HR department, and often manages to alter his chances from being fired.
While his uptight boss Adam Nusbaum (Zachary Levi) signals him over his dwindling due to an upcoming merger, Desmond once again manages to the motivational seminar to do up an overdue report. However, when he shows up he finds his co-workers now have fuses shorter than a matchstick due to new energy drink which was handed out to the staff to boost their efficiency.
Turns out that the drink has a few unforeseen side effects as it turns everyone who drinks it into a hyper-aggressive homicidal maniac. While Sam has only drunk half a can, she maintains a semi control, but with the entire building full of crazies looking to tear them apart, Desmond along with his colleague Mourad (Karan Soni), who has eschewed this beverage because it’s Ramadan, must find a way to get through the all-out battle for survival, which also involves a killer robot!
From there on wards the film predictably moves along to its unsurprising conclusion. The film plays out more like an arcade computer game – get through the floors of zombie to reach the top brass in the penthouse and save the girl from becoming a zombie. If it sounds all a bit simplistic that’s because it is.
There is a level of charm in that the film never intends to be taken too seriously and thus never tries to take anything too seriously, however once this trope wears off it’s like flicking through a trashy magazine – it’s got enough pictures that the words don’t really matter but there isn’t really any substance. The biggest issue here is the script.
The first half is kind of uneventful, and as the story goes on, the film becomes more and more inconsistent. There are a number of plot holes in this film, and the holes are so big that it is impossible to overlook them. What’s worse is that the film’s influences are glaringly obvious. There’s an unhealthy dose of Zombieland injected here, with the lead even resembling the nerdy look of Jesse Eisenberg. Retro-fonted text overlays and a narration to describe ‘rules’ are also present, again another aspect which features in the cult 2009 film.
But it’s not the only already existing property that the film heavily borrows from, the sublime Office Space appears to have been part of the research into characters, as well as the riotous Mayhem and straighter-laced, hyper violent Belko Experiment also having property stolen from their desks. Even the film’s exterior shots of the building look conspicuously similar to the one used in Belko Experiment too, which is admittedly a little lazy.
I guess you can say that there’s a Resident Evil vibe to the film as well only nowhere near as cool. Even the comedy part is half-hearted. Some gags fly, others much less because they are very childish. There is just not enough left in the comedy to be. Does the film catch up with its gore effects? No. Just some bad CGI effects to cover it all up.
The only point of originality the film earns itself is for the zombies itself. In the sense, the afflicted members of staff don’t fall under the usual bumbling definition of ‘zombie’, instead being the sprinting, foaming at the mouth kind, they’re still fully conscious and aware of what they’re doing too, resulting in some extremely exaggerated and grisly office gags.
The only real highlight here is Zachary Levi as the main antagonist. Here, Levi gives the role his all, appearing to thoroughly enjoy being the amped up bad guy. Brenton Thwaites is likeable though misfit for the role, while Jane Levy tries do the best with what she has.
Karan Soni brings his usual shtick of a cowardly goofball who is way out of his depth in full effect. We also got Gregg Henry with his crazy accent, as well as Kurt Fuller and Alan Ritchson in wasted minor parts. On the whole, ‘Office Uprising’ is an underwhelming horror comedy filled with irredeemably substandard elements.
Directed – Lin Oeding
Rated – R
Run Time – 92 minutes