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The Plaga Zombie series of zombie movies. What to say about it, I think I have a lot of things to say about it, since I’m kind of studying Argentine horror movies.
First off you can watch this movie now on Tubi for free, and in Troma NOW! if you have a Troma subscription.
Second off, you can’t grade the movies in this saga, they’re beyond the letters of the alphabet.
I saw it called many different ways: outsider cinema, DIY movie, backyard film, and homemade movie. I’d call it a microbe-budget (lower than a microbudget) black comedy zombie horror movie with techno-thriller elements.
This isn’t a homemade property in the vein of, say, Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County. Yes, these movies are micro-budget like that, but the scope is much greater than Incident in Lake County or any similar micro-budget movies.
Think about it, it seems counter-intuitive: to make a grand adventure black humor Zombie saga with a microbe-sized budget.
But when you want to shock, disgust, and astound those who watch it, like the filmmakers of these movies seem to have wanted to do, it begins to make sense.
Plaga Zombie (1997)
Plaga Zombie is seen by many as a movie that kickstarted a movement called New Fantastic Argentine Cinema, when it was released in 1997.
Do you think that $10000 is too low of an amount to be able to make even a squalid micro-budget horror film?
What about $300?
Because that (either that or $120, or $500, there are conflicting versions) is what this movie cost to make back in 1997, which adjusted for inflation comes to a whopping $575 in 2023 dollars.
Nevertheless, Fangoria called Plaga Zombie “The TITANIC of homemade Zombie films”.
Such a statement doesn’t miss the point, in my view.
I would take Plaga Zombie over any, virtually all, of the micro-budget movies I watched.
I watched the original movie after watching the sequel. I liked the first movie of the saga and enjoyed it, but somewhat less than Zona Mutante.
It’s the first installment in the saga and for me, it takes its time to get cracking.
I am not going to tell you how the movie works so as not to spoil it, but the events are explained, and it’s relatively original, as in never was the zombie genre taken to the heights of such a cross-over with the alien/UFO techno-thriller genre.
What is Plaga Zombie About?
Enter John West a wrestler down on his knees, Bill Johnson a medical school dropout, and Max Giggs a computer-addicted trekker.
They witness how the town they live in becomes overtaken by zombies, but these aren’t any regular type of zombies.
While this movie lacks in the production values department and character development, it doesn’t matter when you consider the movie’s shock value, gross-out rate, and overall bizarre approach.
This movie chronicles just about 75% of the alien invasion’s first day. Plaga Zombie begins during the wee hours of the morning before sunup of that day.
What I Liked or Disliked
I admire the filmmakers’ more than obvious devil-may-care approach.
But I would have done a few tweaks to the script that would have made the saga’s stories much more believable and creepy.
Instead of making the third column of the story the FBI, I would have made them just nondescript, black-budget, regular men in black.
The FBI’s involvement was a disappointment because:
A) What is the FBI doing down there in South America?
B) Since when did FBI agents wear that kind of badge clipped to their shirts?
The FBI doesn’t have jurisdiction in Argentina.
In any case, I would have used the CIA if it had to be a government agency, but just plain MIBs would have been much more appropriate.
And don’t tell me the town is Anywhere USA because there is a city map clearly showing it’s a suburban city in the Greater Buenos Aires area.
Anyhow, I liked this movie a lot but for me, the sequel is a lot better (more than just marginally better) than this one.
A shortcoming of this movie is that it lacks nocturnal footage. It’s understandable, since all the events in the story happen in a single day.
Yet, I believe that more scenes, and especially the showdown, should have been done at night. I’m not sure 100% but I think this movie has only one minute and half of nocturnal footage.
It has kind of shameful gaps in the story’s logic, please keep reading because I’ll elaborate on this further into the article
Plaga Zombie: Zona Mutante (2001)
Zona Mutante starts where the previous movie left off. This movie will make you laugh from minute one of its running time, I promise.
Zona Mutante was the first movie of the Plaga saga I watched, and I guess it was better that way. I didn’t even know what I was getting into. I picked this movie because I was searching for a Zombie movie to watch. Any zombie movie.
When I saw the poster I thought Zona Mutante was going to be an animated Zombie movie. I realized it wasn’t, it was live action, but the first scene somewhat captured my attention and then I watched it whole until the end.
The filmmakers said that they were going to call it Zona Mutante 2, but when they saw that it worked as a standalone movie, they decided to give it a subtitle instead.
I agree with that statement. I didn’t understand what was happening when I started watching Zona Mutante. It starts in media res, but the situation becomes very obvious minutes later.
So yes, it does work as a standalone movie.
What Happens in Zona Mutante?
Again, Muñiz, Parés, and Sáez as West, Johnson, and Giggs, now on day two of the invasion. Zona Mutante starts ten minutes after the events at the end of the first movie.
If I have to put the movie’s meat in a single sentence I’d say it’s a very strange celebration of goofball slapstick cinema expressed through a black comedy lens.
Zombies make a hell of a subject for a black comedy and the filmmakers didn’t spare resources to extract as much fun as possible from that fact.
The second Plaga Zombie explores interpersonal relationships with a subplot about Max’s jealousy. I felt identified with moments in this saga many times and the subplot of Max’s jealousy was one of those times.
The second Max connected with something I’m going through right now with an old schoolmate, who looked like the second Max when we went to school together, that I haven’t seen for decades, we are friends in Facebook, but he has ghosted all the messages I sent him during the last two months.
Watch Out for the Night Scenes
I liked this movie as a whole. What I didn’t like about Zona Mutante was the CGI. I think there are only a few CGI-enhanced parts, but there was one that I didn’t like and it’s very noticeable.
If I were the writer or the director I would have cut that scene out.
It doesn’t add much to the story and in my case, it provoked a violent destruction of my suspension of disbelief.
You’ll know what scene I’m talking about when you see it, it wants to be a very spectacular and sublime scene but it disappointed me with how artificial it looks.
I was expecting the night scenes, and they came like 45 minutes into the movie. Better late than never, I’d say. But when they came it was my favorite part of the movie.
Plaga Zombie: Zona Mutante: Revolución Tóxica (2011)
For me, this is the weakest movie of this whole zombie movie series. Its standards aren’t much different than the previous installment.
It is still 1997, and the three friends are still trapped in their zombie-infested town.
Revolución Tóxica is from the year 2011, or 14 years after the original. It must have been a challenge when they had to think about how to make the characters look like their 1997 selves.
Parés and Sáez don’t look too different from how they looked in 1997 and 2001, but Muñiz does. He looks like he shed 40 pounds or so, so they had to streamline his physical change into the script.
The explanation of why he became skinny kind of satisfied me.
A Tender Tale of Human-Zombie Friendship
For me, the redeeming factor of Revolución Tóxica is in how it develops the character relationships.
There’s a particular, barely reasonable green zombie that appears in the previous two movies but in this one, we get to know him better.
Max captures the green-faced zombie to use him in a project of his to destroy the aliens’ mothership, but things don’t turn out as expected.
They become attached and the relationship goes on a friendship tangent that I loved to watch while it lasted.
Info Dumps and Musical Numbers
This one, the third movie in the Plaga Zombie saga has two things that pretty much ruined it for me.
One is a scene in which Max tells a whole bunch of stuff that could have been shown instead of dumped on the watcher via lines of dialog.
For people (people I wouldn’t call snobs) who see horror films as a form of art, this movie may prove a very annoying case of time loss.
I mean everyone is entitled to give a different value to art items, horror may not be considered serious or academic cinema, right? Still, when you are a fan of horror cinema you may have a certain threshold under which you’re not willing to go.
For example, I know some people who love most branches of the horror genre who wouldn’t watch any mondo movie as a matter of principle. As a side note, one of the three first Plaga movies (I can’t remember which one at this moment) has a mondo moment. It’s just a bird and is a shot that lasts just several seconds, but a hint of animal cruelty this saga has, so be warned if you don’t like animal cruelty. It’s no big deal anyway, it is just a shot that last 1-2 seconds, that shows a decapitated bird.
Anyway, I’m thankful that this whole saga is played for laughs because otherwise it goes places and goes over the top so many times in so many different scenes that any pretenses of seriousness would make it 101% unwatchable.
I can tolerate an info-dump in a movie, especially if it’s delivered in a candid way like Max does.
I can tolerate 1000 gross-out moments and a few hundred ridiculous zombies doing all kinds of spastic things on screen, it may even amuse me and make me laugh.
But a thing I can’t tolerate is the musical number in this movie.
The musical number in the second movie was silly and bizarre enough that I thought it had a lot of merit and I can say I even liked it for how John West grimaced at the camera.
The song in this one, which comes near the end of the movie, was cringe-central for me and I just fast-forwarded it to the end.
Plaga Zombie: American Invasion (2021)
The subtitle of this movie is stolen from a Chuck Norris movie. No, wait, that was Invasion USA.
The same premise of the original trilogy, transplanted from anywhere Argentina (in the movie an unnamed town, in reality, Haedo, Greater Buenos Aires), to anywhere USA (New Bedford, Massachusetts).
While the movie’s craftsmanship feels better, probably due to better technical equipment, the CGI did also improve, and the zombies aspect was not as over the top as in previous ones (which in my view makes the horde a bit more agreeable), the latest film of the saga didn’t pack the same punch as any of the previous ones for me.
I want to get this through, for me, this one is way better than the third.
Who, Where, When?
Supplant John West by Sammy, the lardo wrestler, Max Giggs by Manny, someone who in Buenos Aires would be known as a “nardo de la A.A.A.J” (geeky fan of the Argentino Juniors soccer club), and Bill Johnson by Nash, an inexpressive black gentleman and there you have it, Plaga Zombie the red, white and blue version.
The plot is, again, wafer-thin. The only thing the three protagonists want is to escape the city. But once again, that will not be an easy task.
This shortcoming is somehow offset by the fact that the city’s bigwigs want to sever the city from the mainland (which they proceed to do) and by the introduction of a lone-wolf badass type, Kobra Guevara.
I wonder from where the writers drew their inspiration for this character, but maybe is dumb to steal things (like the lead’s outfit) from an action-hero movie of the 1980s and call the stolen character the same as the original.
I’m just saying.
Is American Invasion The Best Movie of This Horror Movie Series?
It may be said that yes, but, for me, at the technical level only. My heart will always be with the second as the best one.
The marzipan-faced zombies characteristic of the Plaga horror movie series are back, but I think the makeup work in this one is a tad neater than the messy ones in the previous three movies.
I liked the cameos of the original characters, it was a nice touch to add to the movie.
Something beautiful is when the movie starts, you are treated to a CGI cityscape that I thought may have been inspired by the image of the bumper (of a cityscape) at the start of the old Troma movies.
Another thing to American Invasion’s credit is that the movie dispenses with one of the most shameful logic gaps of the previous three.
I mean, come on guys!
Everybody knows that gray aliens are supposed to have teleportation powers, but the watcher of the first three movies has to jump through many mental hoops to connect that conspiracy theory trivia tidbit with what happens often in the Plaga Zombie movies.
The explanation of why, when the characters are locked up away from the horde, a few zombies always, as if by magical arts, appear beside the characters and attack them.
It’s kind of a joke that makes you laugh a few times, but it gets very old, very fast.
One needs to see it from the point of view of the filmmakers. They didn’t have the money for props to show zombies getting to where the leads are through environmental destruction, like busting doors and windows to reach the lead characters.
But making the zombies appear out of thin air, and how it was overused was not good.
American Invasion’s script has done away with that glaring logical error.
These movies are shocking on so many levels.
When I started watching the second, the first I watched, I couldn’t guess the movie’s country of origin.
Then I realized why. They speak in a non-formal, dialect of Spanish called Español neutro.
The neutro in this movie, as in the previous two, is Argentine Spanish but with some words and ways of delivering them that imitate the Ecuadorian Spanish that many audiovisual media in South America are dubbed with.
The use of neutro in the movie makes it feel dated and generally makes it much cooler than otherwise.
The script in each of these movies isn’t great and if, on top of that, the lines would have been delivered in regular Argentine Spanish the movie would have been very dull, in my opinion.
Have you watched any of the movies in the Plaga Zombie saga? Please tell me in the comments.
Movie Still Images Source: Tubi