I, Zombie: The Chronicles of Pain (1998)
Mark (Giles Aspen) is an investigative writer. While out on a trip, he comes across a deserted and run down house out in the middle of an empty field. Immediately in the first room, he finds the disfigured body of a man sitting in a chair. In the next room, he finds a severly mutilated lady jolting in convulsions on an old mattress. Wanting to help, he picks her up and carries her out of the house. While outside, she bites a chunk out of his neck. Screaming in pain, he drops her to the dead grass and runs away. Once some time goes by, he realizes his wound from the bite has showed no signs of healing. He goes into hiding, away from his normal life, his girlfriend and his job. He gets a flat of his own where his mind will drift away day after day, and his body will begin it's decay. The only way to prolong his existence is the need… The need to feed.
I, Zombie is an excellent UK Drama/Horror film coming to us from director and writer Andrew Parkinson (Dead Creatures). It was done on an insane low budget over a period of four years, with no permits, and all of the characters in the film were played by friends and those who actually worked on the movie themselves. Some of the shots are overly bright, some overly dark, but it still manages to top the scales of a wonderful film. With the exception of a couple of on location sets in the film, everything from cars to the apartments used were not provided for the indie filmmakers. This was all from scratch, and in that aspect it is a masterpiece different from any other before it.
Parkinson's story has a strong sense of sadness to it. Mark is not a mindless walking fiend working off of instinct. For a good portion of the film, he knows what he is doing, and he feels bad for it. But he realizes he must eat to live longer. If he doesn't eat after a certain amount of days, it becomes almost unbearable, hence being a zombie is more like a disease. He misses his girlfriend, and only has a few pictures to remind him of the love he had to leave behind. His only means of remembering the cherished times from these pictures is masturbation. This is something not seen everyday from a zombie. Although uncomfortable, showing scenes like these of Mark trying to keep his everyday functions normal as possible is what makes this movie work so well. The film is also doused with depressing acoustic music, done by the crew. This also makes the sadness for our character that much greater.
Giles Aspen does an unprecedented job of pulling off a person trying to come to grips with his condition. In scenes where he doesn't eat, he drops to the floor in mad convulsions for a period of seconds. Aspen was almost seemingly born for this role. Through the entire movie, he looks not emotionless, but depressed. A strong look of sadness always lives on his face. Mark is really the only followed character in the film. His girlfriend and friend (played by Andrew Parkinson) are only shown occasionally and for the most part in interview sequences. They are unimportant people aside from the fact that they were once part of Mark's life. The viewer doesn't get to know them, therefore they don't feel for them. Feelings for Mark on the other hand can grow very deep.
Although I, Zombie is mostly a drama it has a horrific dose of gore throughout it. Mark's eating habits are completely gross. He seems to take a liking to eating cheeks, perhaps because his begins to deteriorate. The viewer gets unsettling scenes of him feeding on a chest with a showing ribcage, fingers digging into victim's wounds, and Mark's leg breaking resulting in him having to drill and screw a brace onto it so he can still walk. His decomposition is downright hideous. By the end of the film he is one of the most disgusting created zombies from any film. The dreams that Mark visualizes are wonderful, yet very haunting. He cannot even escape his horrid and cannibalistic reality even while he sleeps.
I, Zombie is an incredible effort from Andrew Parkinson. It is unlike any zombie film ever done before it. Possibly not for all fans of horror, or even all fans of zombie movies. However, if you are looking for a fresh take on carnivorous walking dead, here it is. Completely creative, visually disturbing and hauntingly depressing. The DVD from Fangoria Films has deleted scenes, behind the scenes, Fangoria interview with Tony Tipone and an excellent cast and crew commentary. A big disappointment with the disc is that is full-frame only. Still, highly recommended.