Night of the Living Dorks (US - DVD R1)
Gabe gets a kick out of this German John Hughes parody with zombies...
Philip and his best friends Konrad and Weener are the three biggest losers at Frederich Nietzsche High school. After Philip's childhood best friend Rebecca and her new Goth clique buddies botch a voodoo ceremony, covering our dorks in zombie ashes, the three die in a fatal car crash. The über-dorks awaken in the local morgue as indestructible zombies with an insatiable appetite for human flesh. Weener uses this newfound power to out drink everyone he knows, Konrad seeks revenge on the schools bullies, and Philip tries to score with the hottest chick in school. But as their appetites become more insatiable and their flesh begins to rot, the dorks realize that being a zombie may not be as much fun as it initial seems.
Just what we needed, right? Another zombie comedy. Yawn. But what's this, this one's actually worth your time? No way.
Night of the Living Dorks isn't going to blow anyone away, and it isn't going to win any awards for originality, but it is a genuinely funny teen comedy, much funnier than the vast majority of Hollywood teen-comedy of the last ten years. The Germans behind the film are, thankfully, not making an American Pie cash-in, despite a few colourful sexually based gags. They're also not paying much more than a passing homage to Peter Jackson, George Romero, or Lucio Fulci, all bases the best zombie comedy in a decade already covered ( Shaun of the Dead).
Night of the Living Dorks (or Die Nacht der lebenden Loser) is paying its greatest homage to John Hughes, and the teen comedies he spawned throughout the '80s. In a very real way the film is much more a spoof of Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Beuller's Day Off then Dawn of the Dead, Zombie, or Braindead. This is what makes the film a stand out, as it is a very funny idea to introduce zombies to the wacky tacky world of American high school in the '80s. If only Once Bitten, Teen Wolf, and especially My Boyfriend's Back hadn't already beaten it to the 'classic monsters in teen comedies' punch (at least it beat out Zombie Prom, which was released in 2006).
But I digress, this isn't really about originality, and truth be told Night of the Living Dorks is much better than these other film's I've mentioned. I'm not a very big fan of sex and drugs humour for its own sake, and for the most part that's kept to a minimum. It's the situations that surround the sex and drugs that usually produce the humour. The plays at the '80s teen genres are the film's best jokes, jokes which could be easily missed by a viewer not looking for any irony.
The characters, though purposefully archetypal, are well rounded and likeable, with über-geek Konrad (played by one Thomas Schmieder, a dead ringer for Slither writer/director James Gunn) being the real standout, and the films most original addition. Konrad has a journal of all the crimes made against him by bullies since childhood and uses his zombie powers to reap hilarious revenge. He also offers the film an additional emotional center, though leads Philip and Rebecca offer up plenty on their own as genuinely lovable losers. Weener is the comic relief of a comedy, an always pointless character, but manages to be mostly unobnoxious.
Though there is specific visual and narrative homage and mentions of other zombie films, this is not a horror film at all. All the gore is kept to a palatable minimum, and very cartoonish. Had it not been for a few moments of blue humour and some brief nudity, I'd say this was a light PG-13. Gorehounds in search of a laugh should probably just watch Braindead again.
Overall the image looks pretty good. This is one of those Anchor Bay 'For Screening Purposes Only' discs, so I can't be sure it's representative of the final product. The colours seem accurate, and are slightly cartoonish in keeping with the film's style (not to mention John Hughes' style). Black levels are solid, and contrast is well balanced. There are some obvious compression issues, blocking, noise, slight pixelation, but these may be caused by cramming the film onto a single layered disc. I'm assuming the retail copy will be dual layered.
Though the box art champions a 5.1 Dolby Digital German track, my screener only came with the 2.0 English dub. I'm not a fan of dubs, but this one works so long as you aren't paying attention to the lip-sync, which is just about as wrong as it can possibly get. I think, but can't find any evidence to prove that Philip is voiced in English by Michael Sinterniklaas, who voices various American cartoons, including The Venture Bros.. The mix is pretty muddy at times, but the dialogue is clear. The music track, which is mostly made up of modern German power-pop music, lacks bass and separation.
My screener only had a trailer.
There are plenty of jokes that fall flat for me, and this usually isn't my kind of film, but I think bigger fans of Hughes' work, not to mention the accursed American Pie films will enjoy Night of the Living Dorks quite a bit. I've been won over in spite of myself. After you finish it seek out Wilson Yip's Bio Zombie, which is along the same lines, and I think better overall.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 20th February 2007
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: German 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Surround
Extras: Behind the Scenes, Deleted and Extended Scenes, 'Fun Scenes', Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Mathias Dinter
Cast: Tino Mewes, Manuel Cortez, Thomas Schmieder, Collien Fernandes, Hendrik Borgmann
Length: 92 minutes
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