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Disaster L.A.
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Disaster L.A. (2014)

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Plot Summary:
"After a meteor shower strikes Los Angeles, toxic smoke is released across the city causing people to physically change and become violent. A small group of survivors plans to vacate the city by heading to the coast."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 17 October 2016 My Rating: out of 5


Justin Ray (one to watch) has a boozy night at a party attended by his idiot brother (Jerod Meagher), ex-girlfriend (Stefanie Estes) and her new beau. The next morning he wakes up to find that a meteor shower the night before has led to toxic air and people slowly turning into zombies. He has to race to find his brother, their friends, and his ex, and try to head up the coast to possible safety. Easier said than done.

Although the budget is noticeably tiny and the title is an unwieldy mouthful, this 2014 Ďzombie plagueí movie from writer/director Turner Clay is actually a nice try at something Clay probably ought not to have even come close to achieving.

The film doesnít start well, as I was wondering whether I had slept through the first few zombie apocalypses, and one of the first things we see are asteroids that look like a computer screen saver from 1995, as well as grainy DV. Yuck. It gets better, though, albeit not to a degree that would result in me wholly recommending it. Almost, though.

Lead actor Justin Ray has an affable Josh Radnor quality to him that is instantly relatable, though co-star Jerod Meagher is a nightmare. Playing a total knob, he sounds like a hyper Ashton Kutcher, and is completely inconsistent. For the first half heís perpetually high and irresponsible, then for the more sombre second half heís somewhat normal to a degree that is jarring. Yes, the situation is serious, but this guy undergoes a personality transplant halfway. Still, at least these characters were kinda identifiable Average Joes in the 20-30ish age range. I didnít get terribly invested in them, but aside from Meagher and the douchy new boyfriend (who was at least amusing), I didnít actively dislike any of them.

Although I donít drink and Iím not one to attend parties if I can get away with it, I have to admit that the central idea is interesting. Waking up after a boozy night to find that youíre in the middle of a whole mess of apocalyptic trouble despite being assured the night before via a TV broadcast that was unlikely to occur, is cool and rather well conveyed under the circumstances. The chaos of trying to locate your loved ones in the midst of panic is well-done, too. Iím not sure if the grainy and muted image somehow hides the CGIís cheapness or if the CG just happens to be OK, but the FX work well enough that youíre not laughing at them. One particular self-sacrificing act is committed at least three damn times with three different characters, which is just poor screenwriting I must point out. The music score is quite decent, and although fake-looking, at least the zombie makeup looks different from the norm. I appreciated that. You can clearly see the seams, but they look interestingly emaciated.

However, 20 minutes into an 80 minute film with no zombie action is quite clearly a problem, as is the aforementioned horribly grainy image quality. Still, zombies or not, the film wasnít boring in the early going, nor for the rest of its length, and I say that as someone who tired of ďThe Walking DeadĒ during the second season. Itís certainly fast-paced, and at least it doesnít overstay its welcome. Grainy as the images may have been, I will say that at least the camerawork was relatively stable.

There's not all that much to this film, and it might be a tad too ambitious for its own good (and budget), but at least Clay's trying. I'll be interested to see what the director does next, because he almost pulled this one off. Ugly photography aside, it's relatively well-made and a pretty easy watch, especially if you're not zombie-d out by now.

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