Ozone VHS

Breaking burial ground

This 1993 feature is somewhat important due to the fact that it was one of the first ShotOnVideo movies that actually tried to look like a real film through the use of computer effects and software processing. It also launched the Suburban Tempe production company, along with its distribution arm Tempe Video. Director J.R. Bookwalter had previously distinguished himself with the zombie tribute The Dead Next Door and has now allied his own company with Charles Band’s Full Moon. Here, he goes more toward Clive Barker territory, combining elements of traditional cop dramas with venereal horror.

Ozone is the name of a new, highly addictive street drug that is often fatal for users. Detectives Eddie Boone and Mike Weitz are hot on the trail of drug lord Sam DeBartolo, who’s behind the trafficking of Ozone. While running down a connection, Weitz is attacked by zombies and disappears, and Boone is injected with the drug. Though suspended for insubordination, Boone investigates his partner’s disappearance on his own, and finds the drug is much more than a dangerous recreation. Ozone is mutating its users into a race of zombies bent on infecting the rest of the world. Will Boone join them?

James Black (Universal Soldier: the Return, Godzilla) rises above most of the cast, giving a solid performance in disorienting surroundings. Bookwalter does well to keep most of the action on dark streets or darker basements, making atmosphere as well as thrift. The f/x are modest but effective, with some (now) simple CGI morphs and old-fashioned bladders. Somehow, zombies that revel in their decomposition are creepier than the usual mindless variety.

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