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DVD Review - Cowboys and Zombies

Originally titled The Dead and the Damned, writer-director Rene Perez's Western/horror hybrid was redubbed for its U.K. release, all the better to cash in on Cowboys and Aliens' box office success. While the latter was anything but perfect, it at least knew how to deliver on its premise.

Following an inexplicable extermination in a nameless small town, wannabe cowboy Mortimer (David A. Lockhart) ups sticks to another identikit Western village - via the unapologetically named Whiskeytown - in order to trap a supposed rapist Indian (Rick Mora) and collect the substantial bounty in return.

Purchasing a young woman (Camille Montgomery) to use as bait, Mortimer is ultimately outsmarted by the Indian who empties the bounty hunter's gun while he sleeps. Their conflict is shortlived, however, after a local tradesman and his friend - a man who will undoubtedly resemble Van Kilmer once he's finished eating all the pies - inadvertently unleash luminescent spores, which in turn transform the villagers into zombies.

You know the drill: department store costumes, hand-carved performances, diabolical dialogue and exploitatively gratuitous nudity - this is an Asylum production in everything but name (we have Left Films to thank for this one). Originally titled The Dead and the Damned, writer-director Rene Perez's Western/horror hybrid was redubbed for its U.K. release, all the better to cash in on Cowboys and Aliens' box office success. While the latter was anything but perfect, it at least knew how to deliver on its premise.

David A. Lockhart is - at best - horribly miscast as gruff bounty hunter Mortimer, lacking as he does the presence needed to make the character work. Starring alongside Rick Mora's walking stereotype, Brother Wolf, and Camille Montgomery's breasts, however, Lockhart at least attempts a performance, though there is little he can do with the paper-thin role he has been afforded.

Nobody is expecting Shakespearean acting, however, and the film's utter dearth of characterization could have been forgiven had it been at least fun. While the effects are surprisingly noteworthy - the zombie make-up proving unexpectedly effective and, in the case of one blind specimen, even memorable - the film is unfortunately an excitement-free zone. Boasting "action" scenes that seem to rattle along at the speed of your average tectonic plate and an electric guitar-heavy soundtrack that signposts scares which never actually materialise, Cowboys and Zombies sadly makes little use of its sterling effects, the film's only real asset.

Cheap but not particularly cheerful, Cowboys and Zombies does little to offset its numerous failings with an engaging array of special features. Coming complete with a trailer and gallery, the DVD at least allows you to appreciate the prosthetic work without the distraction posed by the film's many off-putting flaws.