'Block Z' review: Not bad, but forgettable
Is Block Z a bad movie?
The quick answer is no. There are enough stunts in Mikhail Red's riff on the zombie flick to make it a thrilling distraction from the horrors of real life. What's apparent, however, is that the film never really rises above being middling. It's forgettable.
Gunning for badness
It is so forgettable that it would have helped if the film gunned for badness.
Block Z is so preoccupied with reverence for the genre that it forgot to be fun. It thirsts for humor. It hungers for irreverence. What it offers is a by-the-numbers regurgitation of every trope in the zombie playbook. From the opening sequence that teases of some viral epidemic to the overall conceit of characters struggling to survive a school-bound zombie apocalypse, the film is clearly attempting to conjure a novelty in a sub-genre that has been rehashed to death.
Block Z is stifled by a desire to be safe.
Sure, there's some violence here and there, but it is clear that Red is more concerned with good taste, whether it is because of budgetary constraints or a creative decision to opt out of visually representing the depravity of zombies. He's a clever craftsman, exploiting quick cuts and visual cheats to do away with blatant beheadings or bloodbaths. But Block Z ends up as horror that isn't as horrifying as it should be.
At times, the film's just a meandering bore. There's very little pleasurable oddity in the movie to keep it interesting all the time.
It does too little of its conceit of containing its horrors within a university that supposedly represents the world outside. There is a noble attempt to explore the stark divisions that could have made the succeeding pandemonium more meaningful, but Red discards almost everything for lazy zombie chases and trite familial drama. What's left of the school dynamics is a villainous student politician who passes for the soulless and selfish leadership, and even his thread ultimately unspools in the most generic way possible.
Block Z is a bundle of wasted opportunities.
The promise of its premise quickly dissipates as soon as it embraces the run-of-the-mill mayhem the genre offers. Even the cast is plundered of their trademark charisma. Joshua Garcia, who often effortlessly mixes verve and levity with drama, is a humdrum leading man here.
Julia Barretto, on the other hand, is unconvincing as an action star. There is a sense that Red seems to be cooking up sequels that would hopefully have his characters go beyond their very shallow beginnings and motivations, but if Block Z is any indication, there is very little in its world-building to explore for further stories.
Foray into a fad
Yes, Block Z isn’t a bad film.
It is competently made. However, given that it is essentially a foray into a fad, it could have done more to be unique, to be more memorable. As it is, it's just another face in the crowd. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.