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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Zeta: When the Dead Awaken

August 14, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Zeta: When the Dead Awaken

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #566: Zeta: When the Dead Awaken

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has had to wash the blood off of a baseball bat after using it to crack open the skull of a rampaging zombie that was running at me, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and sixty-six, I take a look at the new Indonesian zombie horror flick Zeta: When the Dead Awaken, which is now available on Amazon Prime Video.

Zeta: When the Dead Awaken

ZETAPoster

Zeta: When the Dead Awaken, written and directed by Amanda Iswan, is a new Indonesian zombie infected horror flick, which is available on Amazon Prime Video. While the movie features plenty of things we’ve all seen a million times before in infected/zombie flicks, Zeta is so well done and exciting that those clichéd things sure seem new. And the new things, the things we haven’t all seen before, are well done, too. Zeta is also the debut feature film for writer/director Iswan, and I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that this is an amazing debut for a first time feature film maker.

Zeta: When the Dead Awaken stars Jeff Smith as Deon, a high school student in Jakarta who finds himself caught in the middle of a zombie outbreak likely caused by seriously contaminated public water. After being told by a teacher that the school is closing because of the contaminated water, a zombie attack ensues within the school building, sending everyone into a panic. When Deon and his fellow surviving students get outside, they find out that the entire city is overrun by the undead. Instead of finding a way out of the city, Deon heads for his mother’s apartment to make sure she’s safe. Deon’s mother, Isma (Cut Mini Theo), has some sort of early onset Alzheimer’s and has no idea what’s going on (the apartment complex has zombies in it, which she seems to be able to avoid simply by luck). When Deon finally gets to his mother’s apartment, he immediately becomes annoyed because she won’t listen to him and, again, has no idea what’s going on. Deon does manage to settle her down, but Deon also knows that they’re going to have to find a way out of the building and to a rescue station because the apartment has few supplies, the power is likely going to go out, and, well, there are goddamn zombies in the building.

Before creating a plan to get out of the building, Deon goes scrounging for supplies in other apartments. He manages to find both food and a full on baby zombie (easily the most messed up sequence in the movie). While heading back to his apartment, Deon meets up with Reza (Dimas Aditya), a heavily armed mystery man who seems to be looking for survivors/people who are still alive in the building. The both go back to Deon’s apartment, and, together, they come up with a plan for escape. Before they do that, though, Reza wants Deon and Isma to get to an apartment owned by a guy named Reyhan (Edo Borne) as Reyhan allegedly has a radio that they can use to call the police/military to come and rescue them. Reyhan also has a collection of firearms and explosives, things he isn’t really supposed to have. And Reyhan isn’t exactly an altruistic helper who wants everyone alive in this crisis to get out alive.

Now, while all of that is going on, the military, under the lead of Kolonel Vito (Joshua Pandelaki) and scientist Dr. Richard Ross (Willen Bevers), try to figure out what to do to get a handle on the zombie outbreak. As Dr. Ross explains, the zombies are the result of some sort of mutation in microscopic organisms in the local water supply and that the zombies seem to operate under an “Alpha Zeta” and “Omega Zeta” scheme (it’s all in the eyes). The alphas initiate the attack and the omega follow. The zombie plague is passed through zombie bites, and it seems as though the zombies are interested in the brains of their prey, as they can see a human’s brain via a kind of “zombie vision.” Kolonel Vito’s engagement plan involves finding a potential cure/antidote to the zombie plague (Dr. Ross believes he has one) and killing any zombie that gets in his or his soldiers’ way. The only thing that matters is the cure.

And so the rest of the movie is the military looking for the cure Dr. Ross believes he has, and escalating tensions between Deon, Isma, Reza, and Reyhan. Will the military ever find that cure? Will Deon and his mother survive both the zombies and the erratic Reyhan? Will the goddamn world end?

Zeta: When the Dead Awaken features a nice balance between the domestic drama involving Deon, his mother Isma, and the mysterious Reza and Reyhan, and the military/government response to the problem. No one seems to be panicking, and while society is breaking down and experiencing a massive problem, there’s a sense that the military will eventually solve the problem. How often do you see that in a modern zombie movie? The only sense of dread involves the goings on in the apartment because the heavily armed Reyhan doesn’t seem to be all that concerned about the zombie plague; all he seems to care about is being found out by the authorities. There’s nowhere for anyone to go: if they stay with Reyhan they will eventually be overtaken by the zombies and die. If they try to leave Reyhan will shoot them dead. And there’s a good chance that if they do escape they could be killed by the military, as the military is only concerned with finding the cure. How is Deon going to navigate all of this and keep his sick mother alive?

It’s also neat how Reza and, to a degree, Reyhan, do their own “on the fly” research into the zombies and how to survive them. They want to eat human brains, but they’re not interested in diseased human brains (this leads to some very interesting stuff Reza and Reyhan force Isma into doing). The zombies are also easily distracted by loud noises, so in the absence of guns and bombs and whatnot, the best way to avoid the zombies is to distract them with far off loud noises they will chase after. The boom box in the elevator idea is brilliant. And the bits where people use their cell phones to get zombies to leave them alone is a great idea.

Now, there’s a big twist towards the end of the movie that I should have seen coming but didn’t. You need to pay attention to who Dr. Ross actually is. When you do realize who he is and what his relationship is to Deon, you may be able to guess how the movie will end/what the big twist is going to be. As I didn’t guess it ahead of time, I was blown away by the big revelation.

The military side of the story isn’t as action packed as I thought it would be. I really thought there would be more shooting of zombies and blowing shit up, but for some reason there isn’t. There’s also a section of the military side of the story that deals with a rebel group called The Blue River Group, but the military decides to team up with these people, not fight them. You don’t see that very often.

The zombie makeup looks good throughout and the zombie performers all do fine jobs as sort of slow moving zombies (there seem to be a mix of zombie types in the movie. Some move faster than others. I’m assuming it has something to do with the while “Alpha/Omega” thing). The gore on display is also pretty good, but the movie could have used more of it. You shouldn’t be allowed to do a zombie/infected movie without at least one on screen exploding head. It should be a rule.

The soundtrack is phenomenal. From the hard rock songs that are spread throughout to the “regular” movie music, Zeta: When the Dead Awaken is a movie soundtrack I want to own on CD (the music is credited to Bontel, and Bontel is listed as a “music illustrator” in the credits. What does that mean?).

The main cast is terrific. Jeff Smith is great as Deon, the concerned kid that just wants to save his Mom. Yes, he has emotional issues he has to deal with throughout the movie, mostly dealing with his mother’s infidelity (the very beginning of the movie has a scene where we see Deon’s parents arguing over Isma sleeping around), but he tries to compartmentalize those issues because he has to get her to safety. Isma is also very sick, so there’s that to deal with, too. Deon is also the least annoying young protagonist I’ve seen in a horror movie in a good, long time. That’s always cool to see.

Cut Mini Theo is brilliant as Isma, Deon’s mother. Until you find out what’s actually going on with her, Isma just seems to be weirdly clueless. Why isn’t she concerned with the zombie outbreak happening just outside of her apartment complex? Why can’t she operate her TV? What the hell? And when you do find out what’s going on with her, you become deeply concerned with Isma’s well-being. She doesn’t always understand what’s going on around her. Why isn’t anyone helping her?

Dimas Aditya is very cool as Reza. He’s a badass, sure, but he isn’t a cruel prick, either. That designation is left for Edo Borne, who does a great job as Reyhan. These guys would have made for an interesting “two guys surviving the zombie apocalypse” movie by themselves.

And Willem Bevers is damn good as Dr. Richard Ross. Bevers balances between being a concerned scientist that just wants to save the world and a guy hiding a secret. I really thought he was going to be devoured by the zombies by the end of the movie. That’s what usually happens to guys in his position. And Joshua Pandelaki is fascinating as Kolonel Vito. He’s focused on finding the cure for the zombie plague and will do whatever it takes to get it, but he isn’t a lunatic. He isn’t Captain Rhodes in Day of the Dead. How often do military characters fare well in zombie movies?

Zeta: When the Dead Awaken is a great new zombie flick. It’s well done on every level, and, even when it does something we’ve all seen a million times in zombie movies, it does it so well that you forget that you’ve seen it a million times. And its “new” stuff? You’ve probably never seen a zombie movie with those things in it. An amazing debut for writer/director Amanda Iswan.

See Zeta: When the Dead Awaken. See it, see it, see it!

ZetaZombie

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: Lots.

Undead bodies: Potentially millions.

Explosions: Not really.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A beautiful drone shot of a devastated city, a very cool opening titles sequence, an awesome fucking opening titles song, a couple fighting, school, shit talking, face punching, a big brawl, guidance counselor (maybe) hooey, a shocking zombie attack, neck biting, stuff about contaminated local water, a mini zombie army, bike riding, a big hooha zombie street riot, baseball bat hooey, a dead woman in an elevator, a local news broadcast, multiple TV remotes, garbage removal, baseball bat washing, cardboard box opening, banner hooey, power outages, a food search, zombie distracting, lock picking, multiple bullets to the head, suicide, a zombie baby, using a TV to distract a zombie, hatchet to the neck, a floor full of old people zombies, wound cleaning, wound fixing, Alzheimer’s hooey, an argument, screwdriver to the head, a bat with nails in it, a boom box distraction, a zombie attack that doesn’t work out as expected, shotgun hooey, face beating, knife throwing, random zombie shooting, talk of ammunition supply, walkie talkie hooey, more lock picking, sniper hooey, big bags of guns, jumping zombie attack, attempted knife to the face, multiple video game homages, an important document, shoulder biting, a shootout, leg shooting, leg stabbing, window breaking, an almost massacre, a happy family flashback, and an awesome closing credits theme.

Kim Richards?: Big time.

Gratuitous: Philosophy, Jakarta, a kid in a school room playing a first person shooter zombie video game, actual zombies, scientist hooey, military hooey, a mother not understanding how to turn off the TV using the wrong remote control, a fat zombie, a zombie baby, zombie vision, different zombie levels, a rebel group that the military doesn’t want to completely destroy immediately, brains in jars, “decision making,” a big twist, and an almost happy ending.

Best lines: “What we put out into the world will be returned to us,” “I was working, Isma! I was working!,” “Deon, I can’t find the potion,” “Aw, man, I died,” “A love bite,” “Oh, I can hitchhike? For real?,” “Hey, aim for the head,” “Why were you running?,” “Why are there two remotes?,” “When will the rescue team arrive?,” “But is your team trained to fight monsters like zeta? They are trained to die, Dr. Ross. That’s what matters,” “Don’t worry, I was a nurse once,” “How’s Nurse Ida doing?,” “The world is in chaos. No one will survive,” “You scum! How dare you lie to me!,” “I hate small talks,” “In a normal world they are labeled as society’s garbage,” “Alpha Zeta! It has more tentacles!,” “I love you, Mom,” “If not for me you’d be dead at the orphanage! You scum!,” “All this is happening because of you!,” and “I’m so sorry, Deon.”

Rating: 9.0/10.0

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Max Reload and the Nether Blasters: This appears to be some sort of lowish budget sci-fi action comedy about a group of video game nerds who accidentally unleash some sort of mega evil from an old Colecovision cartridge. It looks kind of goofy, but the special effects and action sequences on display in the trailer look pretty good. It also looks like Kevin Smith, Whil Wheaton, Lin Shaye, Greg Grunberg, and Martin fucking Kove are in this, so the movie has a fun cast. I would rather rent this before buying it, just to see if it’s actually any good because movies like this one can be really good or really bad. Anyone out there see this yet? Anyone at all?

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Split Second Collector’s Edition: I actually saw this early 1990’s action-horror-sci-fi classic starring Rutger Hauer on the big screen, and I’ve been in love with it ever since. This movie is just so goddamn awesome (check out my full review of the movie here). And now it’s finally available as a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray from the fine folks at MVD Rewind and it looks like this Blu-ray is full of special features. Commentary tracks, interviews, a different version of the movie, it’s all here. I’ve always wanted to know more about the movie’s production, and it looks like this Collector’s Edition will tell us everything we need to know and then some. The initial DVD release of this movie is super hard to find, not to mention expensive, so this Blu-ray is, without a doubt, an absolute must own for fans of the movie. Rutger Hauer is so great in it, as are Kim Cattrall, Alastair Duncan (Detective Dick Durkin), and Alun Armstrong, the man who has one of the greatest pissed off cop captain meltdowns in movie history. Again, I love this movie, and I can’t wait to experience this Blu-ray. “We need bigger guns! Big fucking guns!”

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Next Issue: The all-star action horror flick VFW!

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Zeta: When the Dead Awaken

Cut Mini Theo– Isma
Jeff Smith– Deon
Dimas Aditya– Reza
Edo Borne– Reyhan
Joshua Pandelaki– Kolonel Vito
Willem Bevers– Dr. Richard Ross

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Amanda Iswan
Screenplay by Amanda Iswan

Distributed by Film Regions International

Not Rated
Runtime– 95 minutes

Watch it here