The Rezort feels like a Saturday Night SyFy Special with actual funding, which is a compliment in my book. As most good zombie flicks do, horror is used as a means for social commentary. Kills and gore chew through fleshy characters, but writer Paul Gerstenberger’s survival scenario speaks to human instincts through genre exploitation. You’ll get an open-world safari element that’s all about hunting preserved dead-heads, along with powerful quips meant to explore dealings with grief, guilt and post-war desensitization. It’s nothing Earth-shattering, but director Steve Barker’s zom-dram is vicious enough to support astute observations about zombies and humans being equally despicable creatures. Even with a cheesy “Z” title insertion.
In a post-outbreak world where almost 2 billion people were killed, containment is key. When citizens turned into zombies, a war broke out, but somehow man won. Now, with airtight regulations in place, zombies are a problem of the past – except at Rezort. Yes, a small tropical island still keeps zombies alive so wealthy adventurers can pay to hunt them. People attend for all different reasons – whether you’re trying to deal with post-outbreak instability (Melanie, played by Jessica De Gouw) or if you’re living out some video game fantasy (Jack, played by Jassa Ahluwalia) – but safety is always top priority. That’s why employees are so ill-prepared when a computer virus hacks Rezort and crashes all security measures, infesting the destination with hungry zombies. Looks like the latest round of guests is getting more than they bargained for…
The spectacle aspect of The Rezort is rather fun, from lavish poolside retreat shots to chained-up zombie shooting galleries monitored by trained employees. Attendees are given the illusion of complete control, while puppeteers maintain safety precautions that make “hunting” as easy as shooting zombies in a barrel. Our worst traits are exposed by greedy business practices à la Jurassic Park, plus we get a healthy dosage of gun-toting machismo that’s immediately stripped once “shufflers” start roaming free. Movies have long warned about playing God, but Barker is smart enough to launch directly into throat-ripping ferocity without much exposition besides post-outbreak survival stories.
Cinematographer Roman Osin deserves credit for rebounding after cheap-cut found footage introduces The Rezort. Don’t be alarmed – that shaky POV crap only lasts so long, then we’re being driven around well-manicured resort grounds and open, exotic island locations. Jeeps are themed with “Rezort” logos and a distinctive color pattern, giving the film a larger feel than generic black rental vehicles a lesser-tuned product might roll out. There’s world-building investment put into this borderline-pedestrian concept, which accounts for that whole “totally could be a SyFy movie but is way better” vibe. Hey, some SyFy movies are pretty damn fun! So imagine that same tone employed with bolstered production values.
In between meeting Gerstenberger’s characters and wrapping up Barker’s explosive finale, an evolution takes place. Online gamers are outed as real-life cowards, lies cover up protester stowaways and burly heroes take charge, as personalities react to disaster. Some are obvious – Dougray Scott is and always is a badass marksman – while Jessica De Gous wrestles with internal pain she hope to reconcile through face-to-face confrontation. Jassa Ahluwalia and Lawrence Walker provide the right B-movie goofs as trigger-happy cyber shooters, while other arcs run expected paths (Martin McCann’s surviving soldier/Claire Goose as Rezort’s scummy corporate owner). Performances vary from average to a little above “Hey now!,” which is more than we can sometimes ask for in horror.
Gerstenberger’s Zombies take a page from mainstream lore, spreading infection through saliva (bites). “Fresh” corpses have the ability to move a bit quicker, but never at Dawn Of The Dead remake speeds. Devastation comes by way to overrunning numbers, who pile on fresh bodies for a quick, bloody treat. Makeup jobs paint plenty of realism, and when survivors die, they get a good chunk ripped out of what ever body part zombies decide looks tastiest.
All in all, Baker ensures that expected visual atrocities during zombie apocalypse scenarios have their boxes checked, and with ample gooeyness. Industrial settings make for some monotone chase scenes, but a few ravenous rampages throughout sunny island backdrops make for solid action set pieces complete with headshot sprays and horrified war cries.
Maybe “Z’ pun titles are making a comeback in the horror genre! JeruZalem impresses more than most low-budget found footage films, and now The Rezort is certainly one of the better movies to have me referencing “SyFy” during critiques. Again, we’re talking easy-peasy zombie hunting that turns into a game of who makes it out alive. The answer is clear and probably won’t shock anyone, but there’s plenty of skin-tearing genre pleasantries worth a dark solution to posed refugee issues. Dig some sun-soaked vacation atmospheres engulfed in chaos and carnage, or just enjoy the whole “theme park gone deadly” vibe. Nothing wrong with cheap thrills through expensive means!
The Rezort is what happens when SyFy ideas are given an actual budget, making for quite the vacation from hell.