Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies
With the increasingly apocalyptic state of current affairs, the zombie as metaphor is on the forefront of the pop culture hive mind. We scroll feverishly through news, we post desperately into the void, we re-tweet furiously, trying to distinguish ourselves from the mindless, shambling hoard. There is no “if you can’t beat them, join them” anymore. They are coming out of the shadows; they are making noise; they are closing in.
The formula for a zombie outbreak film is sacrosanct since the prime entry by the father of zombie films, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead:
- the outbreak occurs;
- a small group of misfits are forced to cooperate for survival;
- through miscommunication, missteps and panic one or more of the group is picked off;
- someone keeps a bite a secret;
- the remaining survivors are forced to ban together for one last-ditch effort to get to safety;
- zombie skulls are busted;
- the audience is left on a hopeful but not too hopeful note.
It is the suspense and splashy, mucky gore that entices us but it is the context and subtext that has us leaving the theater thoroughly shaken. Zombie films have taken on discrimination, militarization, and rampant consumerism, acting like a mirror in which we see our worst selves uncanny and undead. What happens, though, when you keep the formula but drop the heavy, downer metaphor? Well, you get Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies.
In terms of following the quintessential zombie outbreak formula, Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies nails it. There are no digressions or distracting attempts at ingenuity or originality. Why reinvent the wheel if it gets things rolling? A chemical accident caused by the desperate owner of a failing ski resort initiates the zombie outbreak. The small group of misfit survivors consists of two professional snowboarders, Josh (Oscar Dyekjær Giese), the sweet one, and Steve (Laurie Calvert), the egotistical reckless one; Steve’s manager/disgruntled girlfriend, Branka (Gabriela Marcinková); the desperate resort owner, Franz (Karl Fischer); and the elderly, widowed tavern-keep, Rita (Margarete Tiesel). They are stranded atop the mountain without a mode of transportation or another town for kilometers, there are missteps and panic and someone keeps a bite secret – this plot could not be more telegraphed if it was in Morse code - but a few glimpses of some zombified deer are a harbinger of gore to come.
And, boy, does The Attack of the Liederhosen Zombies give you the gore – there’s spurty, syrupy blood and ropy intestines by the meter. These zombies are not unlike the plot of this film – full of holes and falling apart before your eyes. One zombie gets a gash to the abdomen and all of its internal organs fall out - and I mean all of them - starting with the intestines then other various viscera and then ending with the eyes and brain which just land in a neat pile ready for stomping. There are exposed ribcages, smashed skulls, and the climax leaves the fresh Alpine powder stained pink with carnage. The script is not above a mid-kill quip, which amuses me endlessly. At one point, Steve shoves one of the undead onto a pair of mounted antlers and exclaims “Nice rack!” Classic. Later, Rita is facing down a fresh walker and holds up a pair of ski poles to the ghoul’s eye sockets and declares “Now you see me…” shoves the poles clear through her victim’s rotting skull and you can finish the rest. Priceless. The pièce de résistance is the final fight when Steve is busting zombie skulls with the sharp edge of his trusty snowboard to Johann Strauss II’s the “The Blue Danube.” Steve is catching air and twisting on his board to the delicate, refined waltz, while crimson zombie blood and flesh explodes into the air. It’s the most elegant thing to come out of Austria since Klimt’s Gold Period.
According to IMDb, Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies is the first Austrian zombie film, which may make director/co-writer Dominik Hartl the George Romero of Austria, but there is nothing about this film that puts on such airs. Hartl’s zombie premise veers away the current political climate, and slaloms headlong into ‘Night of the Living Dead meets Better Off Dead.’ Anyone who watches the trailer and is disappointed by the movie watched it wrong. The trailer promises snowboarding, zombies, and kissing, two of which I’m a huge fan of. It’s meant to be a fun romp through the alps with zombies and, in that, it delivers. There is sincerity and heart to the characters that, despite the kitschy title, keeps the film from crossing into full on Sharknado/Dude Bro Party Massacre III/horror-spoof territory, which I have no patience for. Because of the performances of Laurie Calvert and Gabriela Marcinková, I found myself buying into Steve and Branka’s relationship, as shallow and formulaic as it may be. I think the only thing implied in the trailer that you do not get in spades is lederhosen. The credits list only two lederhosen zombies and I’m pretty sure one of them was wearing a dirndl.
In times of crisis, we turn to art to fulfill that for which we yearn emotionally, intellectually or spiritually. The metaphor steeped zombie film empathizes with our sense of isolation, confusion, and impending doom. It leaves us feeling exposed but intellectually satisfied. But sometimes what we yearn for is escape and to see a zombie cleaved in twain via an elaborate snowboard stunt. For me, Romero’s masterpieces – Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead – are like serious, farm-to-table, fine dining: complex, sophisticated, nourishing. Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies is fruity pebbles in the afternoon: I gained nothing, I may actually be worse off for watching it, but when I was shoveling that nonsense into my gob, it was exactly what I wanted.