25 June 2017



Lisa (or Bart!) Simpson, in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse: Dad, you killed the zombie Flanders...!
Homer Simpson: Flanders was a zombie...?

Heh-heh-heh. Ya gotta love THE SIMPSONS. Anyway, remember the horror anthology film from 2016 called TALES OF HALLOWEEN? It consisted of several interconnected little vignettes all centering around the one American neighbourhood on Halloween Night, and every vignette was made by a different director. Well, EMPIRE STATE OF THE DEAD has the same idea.

It's basically the story of a viral outbreak of some sort in New York leading to a Zombie Apocalypse, and it's told in vignettes just like TALES OF HALLOWEEN. Each separate story is made by a different director, which is enjoyably entertaining because each director has his/her own unique way of looking at the world. You can scratch that 'her,' by the way. There ain't no females in here no-how, haha.

There are threads connecting all the vignettes and pulling or knitting the whole story expertly together so that, by the end, you have a nice satisfying sense of completion with most of your questions answered.

Let's have a look at the common threads, as it were, before I tell you about my favourite vignettes and, most importantly, let you guys in on the main reason why I'm penning this review, namely, Wayne W. Johnson, a handsome Syracuse actor from the movie who's paying me five bucks to big him up. He's so strikingly good-looking, however, not to mention talented, that I'm nearly thinking of letting him off the five bucks. We'll see. I still got bills to pay...!

Anyway, the common threads first, right? The US Army is out in full force, of course, at a time like this, and one guy I'd definitely want on my side in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse is the big, tough, burly and dependable Sergeant Ritter, marvellously played by Joel Miscione. I love his hair, too. His is a highly-disciplined buzzcut you could set your watch to. I want to run my fingers through it to feel the spiky prickliness.

It's Ritter's job to follow orders and go where he's needed most in these troubled times, accompanied by his two trusty underlings McCrae and Sheets, who provide the comic relief. These two sidekicks have an hilarious conversation about how to refer to the zombies, given that the word 'zombie' itself has been banned, possibly because it's politically incorrect.

I like McCrae's idea to call 'em 'carnabies,' a clever amalgam of 'carnivores' and 'zombies.' Sergeant Ritter's 'pus-bags' is also acceptable, though. I love too that McCrae is worried about giving up smoking when she's slap-bang in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse, at the end of which her nicotine intake will likely be the least of her worries...!

I see these three warm and likeable characters as the heart of the film. Their main enemy, aside from the 'shufflers,' walkers' and 'risen,' which incidentally makes Sheets, a guy of course, think of boners, is a guy called Ray.

He's a 'greasy lowlife who gets a kick out of compromising rescue centres' because he's a drug-lord who, with the aid of his minions, is hoping to turn the Zombie Apocalypse to his
own advantage. He sees himself as the head of a New World Order when the dust eventually settles on the Zombie Apocalypse, as settle it presumably must at some point.

That's why he's sabotaging all the US Army's efforts to maintain order. WHEN RITTER MET RAY is a possible name for the showdown that's inevitably coming ever closer for these two Alpha males. My money's on Ritter. I told you earlier, he's the kinda guy you want in your corner when the shit hits the fan. He's cute too, which never hurts. Me and my obsession with big men, haha. They make me feel safe, is all.

Ray tells an extraordinary story at the start of the film about his dog and his dick, in warehousey surroundings not dissimilar to those in Quentin Tarantino's RESERVOIR DOGS. It's a bit surreal, given the locale and the fact that he's telling his story to a guy he clearly intends to murder horribly when his tale is told.

THE DOG AND DICK sounds like an English country pub, doesn't it, where you can get desserts or 'sweets' like 'Spotted Dick' and tapioca pudding that remind your of your days on the playing fields of Eton when you were a snobby little public-schoolboy, heh-heh-heh.

If such a pub were to really do its job, of course, then there'd be business cards dotted discreetly about the bar with the contact details of selected personnel who'd be happy to recreate your Tom Brown-esque schoolday thrashings for really a quite reasonable fee. Didn't that get dark quickly...? The English and their preoccupation with their public school canings, haha.

Speaking of Alpha males, Wayne W. Johnson's segment, entitled 'BLESSED ARE THE MEEK,' is my favourite vignette, and I'm not just saying that on account of the five bucks. Wayne plays a seriously twisted character called Draven, sartorially stylish in snug-fitting leather trousers and fancy waistcoat, who intends to have as much sick fun as he can during the Zombie Apocalypse.

He and his little band of, erm, just two followers accost and torment randomers who are fleeing from the zombies and make their certain demises all the more unpleasant by urging them to run on ahead so that they can fiendishly hunt them down like, um, hunters, haha.

I've seen the long-haired Wayne acting in several horror films by now (BRACKISH, TALES OF DRACULA, NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE and now EMPIRE OF THE DEAD) and in each film he displays an extraordinary comic talent as well as the fear factor, proving that there's more than one string to his bow.

And, speaking of music, his rock outfit CAROLINE BLUE is credited with the song PAIN on EMPIRE STATE OF THE DEAD's excellent soundtrack, a song which Wayne wrote himself and then performed with his band. But I was talking about his undoubted comic abilities. He hams it up brilliantly in 'BLESSED ARE THE MEEK.'

His stint as a pretend sort of Jehovah's Witness-slash-Bible-salesman is hilariously funny ('Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Saviour?'), although he's surely going to Hell for what he does to that Bible later on in the segment.

I was kind of jealous when the pigtailed skank Amy kissed him full on the mouth in the film but his response, I must say, was more than satisfactory. By the way, did you know that 'the meek are the shit that get trampled on by the killers of the world?' No? Well, now you do...!

The segment 'BLESSED ARE THE MEEK' could be extended to form a full-length horror film, by the way, in the style of Rob Zombie and the absolute sickos who populate his massive hit film 'HOUSE OF A THOUSAND CORPSES.' That's the vibe I was kinda getting from it.

Wayne has some really funny bad-taste lines in his bit that include, but I won't tell you why: 'I think I just came!' and 'Aw, it's a shame I'm a vegan...!' The whole film is firmly tongue-in-cheek, with some terrifically witty and memorable one-liners throughout.

Wayne is a magnificent showman. Having carefully viewed his performance in EMPIRE STATE OF THE DEAD, I actually think he'd do a brilliant job of playing a deranged and deviant ringmaster or Master Of Ceremonies of a super-sick Circus of Freaks/Horrors in a Rob Zombie-esque film about same. Directors in general, take note. Casting directors in particular, start your engines...

I also liked the segment 'WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH ALYSSON?,' a vignette about two sisters who have to deal with the Zombie Apocalypse all on their own, and the one about the
guy who likes to rape lady zombies. 

I think he just likes raping, personally. You know, like the guy in BLAZING SADDLES who 'said rape twice.' I don't think he discriminates, which is always so nice to see in a rapist, haha. Check out that wicked grin on his face as he shuts the door on his decidedly anti-social activities...

EMPIRE STATE OF THE DEAD, I would say, is a deeply fond tribute to George A. Romero's famous zombie films. (Is that really your real name, Howard Gromero?) A love of horror and the zombie sub-genre in particular shines clearly out of every lovingly-put-together frame.

The zombie make-up and special effects are excellent and there's a great musical score as well. There's more than enough in here to satisfy fans of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAY OF THE DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD and every other great zombie film ever made.

I'm off now to try and get that fiver off Wayne. For an up-and-coming actor with a bright future ahead of him, he never seems to have any f***ing cash on him...

As a wee bonus, here's the link to LOCKED-IN, a short zombie horror movie, originally intended for inclusion in EMPIRE STATE OF THE DEAD, starring Wayne W. Johnson and directed by Anwar Armstrong for HEWITT FILMS with fx by Kerry Shanahan:


Just a few links now to help you to connect with Wayne, who apparently has more of an online presence than the flippin' Kardashians and Donald Trump put together...!








Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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