The vampire has been romanticized for so long, it’s about time another movie monster got its turn. The zombie may not be a likely candidate (what with eating brains and the whole rigor mortis thing), but being undead has its perks. You never need to sleep, you can take a lot of punishment, and you can ingest all the booze you want, all sure-fire ways to wow your friends. Germany’s Night of the Living Dorks plays this premise for laughs, sending up sexploitation cinema by way of George Romero. It’s a silly, innocent farce that lands a good chuckle or two, but after a while, so much sustained lunacy starts to make viewers feel like the walking dead themselves.
Night of the Living Dorks delivers on its title by starring the most socially-awkward geeks you’ve ever seen. Philip (Tino Mewes) is the bashful nice guy with a thing for the resident hottie. Konrad (Thomas Schmieder) is the know-it-all who literally keeps every time he’s been beaten up on record. Weener (Manuel Cortez) is the pothead who’s too stoned to feel insulted. All live perfectly average high school lives, until a voodoo ritual turns our three zeroes into zombies. Upon this realization, the guys use their newfound abilities to get back at campus bullies and win over the student body. But the need to feed soon comes calling, leaving the trio mere hours to reverse their curse before their humanity is lost for good.
Nothing lends itself to criticism quite as well as good old American excess. Hollywood is a perfect example, with its knack for glossing over reality to the point that there’s little of it to be seen at the nearest ultraplex. Though it may initially seem like a shameless ripoff, Night of the Living Dorks regards itself with a mostly smart-alecky tone. It’s a big goof being made at horror’s expense, yet it remains more respectful than Twilight and its many unintentional titters. While there’s a bit of reliance on reference jokes and riffs on zombie lore, it’s never overdone. Similarly, there’s not a teen stereotype the script doesn’t address, but it’s supposed to be that way. Director Mathias Dinter subscribes to the Scream method of recognizing that most horror flicks are parodies unto themselves. He just happens to be one zany storyteller, which, at first, helps lighten up this tale of undead adolescence.
But take note of the two magic words: “at first.” It’s true, I really dug Night of the Living Dorks as it began, thanks mostly to its off-the-wall disposition. But after a while, Dinter began buying into all those conventions he was just giving atomic wedgies to five scenes prior. All that offbeat charm and good will vanished under a glut of derivative gags. Sure, it’s funny when the guys start shedding appendages at inopportune times, but rehash the bit twenty times over, and you’ll beg the film to make with the credits already. The potty humor eventually wins out and undermines those parts of the flick that try to have a heart. Though the three leads perform just fine (with support from Collien Fernandes as a cutie pie Goth girl), it’s hard to accept their characters with even a fraction of the seriousness the story requests.
Night of the Living Dorks will do the trick for an evening with (preferably) inebriated amigos (switch over to the dubbed version for maximum laughter). But its effect stops there, for if you set the film in front of seasoned horror buffs, you’ll get more complacent shrugs than guffaws. As lively as it is on the outset, Night of the Living Dorks manages to flatline pretty fast.
Read Jose Cruz’s Night of the Living Dorks review here.