Ever since Romero's Night of the Living Dead appeared in 1968, shuffling 'ghouls' have proven an excellent vehicle for importing social and political commentary through genre's back door. So when Marc Foster's World War Z (2013) landed in a walled Jerusalem beleaguered by mindlessly aggressive hordes beyond, it looked for a brief moment as though the powderkeg of Middle Eastern politics was at last about to be ignited by some zombified parable. Left behind, however, before its suggestive ideas had any time to settle, this Israeli episode would turn out to be just another splash of local colour on the film's whistle-stop tour of the globe. The same could not be said of Eitan Gafni's Cannon Fodder, which devotes its full feature length to undead allegory on either side of the Israel/Lebanon fence.
On orders from his eye-patched superior Gideon (Amit Leor), newlywed Doron (Liron Levo) leads a four-man special ops team on a top-secret cross-border mission to extract 'Hezbollah Number 3 Man' Manzur within 36 hours, amidst rumours that the Lebanese scientist has been developing a new weapon in the conflict with Israel. What they find is a Lebanese bordertown overrun by infected 'biters', and Manzur's terrified daughter Noelle (Yafit Shalev) insisting that her father, far from being an Arab 'terrorist', had in fact been working with Israel on a biological agent that was now threatening to bring down the entire region without discrimination.
A crack team of pumped-up, hyper-machoistic, homophobic, racist IDF patriots. An enemy stripped of its ideology and reduced to raw appetite. Israelis and Lebanese alike torn between their divided allegiances to nation and family. And a state that keeps authoring its own problems. Exposing the entrails of a double-dealing Israel as terroristic in its conduct as those it opposes, Cannon Fodder certainly offers viewers plenty to chew on - but unfortunately its ideas are drowned out by some truly shoddy filmmaking. The dialogue is all ugly, infantile posturing, producing characters for whom it is difficult to care, while watching them sneak about behind zombie lines, and then sneak about some more, and then yet some more, soon becomes a tension-free exercise in attrition by boredom. The film climaxes in 'visions' of Israeli cities given over to apocalyptic ruin, but these are considerably diluted in their impact by cheap CGI rendering too reminiscent of Birdemic-style ridiculousness to inspire anything like actual horror in the viewer. It is an Armageddon that cannot be taken at all seriously, but is hardly funny either.
One day a great zombie flick may rise up out of the contradictions in Israeli politics - but poorly paced, badly written and utterly unengaging, Gafni's broad social satire does not, unfortunately, make the canon.
'Cannon Fodder' screens at Film4 FrightFest...
Discovery Screen 1, Sat 24th August, 3.15pm
Discovery Screen 2, Mon 26th, 1.40pm
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