Zombie Reddy Movie Review: A zombie film that bites more than it can chew
Zombies run riot in Rayalaseema, but, it is not the rollicking fun it should be
In patches, Zombie Reddy is fine entertainment—especially when it channels its sense of humour. The title credits play to a version of ‘Go Corona Go’ and seems to setup a potentially irreverential film. Like in a Shaun of the Dead, the zombies, at times, are treated as the mindless trolls they are. A zombiefied old man is kept under control with the simple trick of a recovery collar around his neck. A zombie Draupadi is on stage disrobing Dushasana. These are funny ideas and so long as Zombie Reddy seems to be having fun, I did too. However, our films are never happy doing one thing, are they? From time to time, a repetitive horror scream echoes in the background, the moon turns red, and the zombies get treated like they were ghosts in a horror film. That’s perhaps why a poster of Ram Gopal Varma’s Dheyyam is referenced in the beginning. In addition, there’s the whole Rayalaseema men-brandishing-sickles angle as well. Towards the end, there’s a twist concerning a female lead that’s painfully obvious. And on top of all this, there’s the hint of divine assistance too. For a film that should be having fun as zombies run riot in Rayalaseema, it just seems to suffocate itself with all the various predictable ideas it’s trying to cram in.
Director: Prasanth Varma
Cast: Teja Sajja, Anandhi, Daksha Nagarkar, Harsha Vardhan
Right at the beginning though, there’s much promise of what looks to shaping up to be a localised zombie film. As our young leads, exposed to the video game world, recognise a zombie (or in other words, an undead-y Reddy) in a jiffy, the locals look clueless. “Jaambie?” they go, looking every bit as dull as the zombies that strut around, drooling. I wish this film had tugged at these strings further and explored what it takes for the Kurnool locals to truly comprehend what’s going on. Truth be told, the many perennially furious men in the region, baying for blood as they are, don’t seem all that different from zombies.
The film, in parts, gets likeably irreverential as well. A zombiefied old woman gets smashed to pulp. A limbless ruffian becomes the butt of a few visual gags. And yet, this is a film that’s keen to do good by its two lead women (Anandhi, Daksha Nagarkar), who are both shown to be bada**es in their own right. One wears a saree and wields a trident, as the imagery of Kali is invoked. The other is a video junkie, and a shot gun is her weapon of choice. In one scene, as the male lead, Mario (Teja Sajja), commands his male friend to accompany the girl, she coolly rejects his condescending, even if caring, offer, and asks him to use the help instead. This is also a film with many Telugu cinema references, including nods to stars like Chiranjeevi and Pawan Kalyan. It’s a film that tires itself with all that it tries to do in its two-hour duration.
Perhaps my least favourite of its many explorations is the divine angle towards the end, as a temple and its lingam come in to save the day, as though the zombie virus were actually the work of satan. How this solution is arrived at is rather crude and convenient as well. For all these faults, it’s a film that I’m tempted to be quite kind to, mainly on account of its filmmaking finesse. This is evident in quite a few stretches— like that video game-like portion that has Mario walking out of his home and scoring points while performing street stunts… like that gorgeous visual imagery as Mario, who’s doused in petrol, employs Neo-like agility to avoid incoming firecrackers. I only wish that the rest of the film had had as much fun with its material. We might have too.