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Though it doesn’t change the game in the oversaturated zombie subgenre, “Project Z” remains a competent, well-executed player.

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I think it’s fair to say that zombies have been a big part of my horror obsession since I was a young lad. Indeed, my obsession with zombies is only surpassed by my obsession with The Exorcist (1973). However, as Shakespeare so eloquently put it, “that there is too much of a good thing: and it is true, that the best things, if they are too much used, doe much hurt.”

In terms of the zombie genre, the Bard’s words ring especially true, with the most recent outings being a little more miss than hit.

With tired old tropes being trodded out and the focus moving from horror to action — along with the unrelenting misery that became The Walking Dead — undead fatigue was bound to creep in at some point.

Despite many a false dawn of the dead, I still avidly seek out and watch new releases in the hope of finding a film that will bring something new to the genre.

Thus, I came into Project Z (2021) with a modicum of hope. Overall, I wasn’t disappointed.

Project Z follows the story of student filmmakers and a small group of actors as they trek into the Norwegian mountains to film an 80-style zombie movie in an abandoned hotel. Filming is interrupted by a meteor strike with dire consequences for the production.

One of the major strengths of Project Z is the balance that writer and director Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken maintains — the fluidity of movement between the film within the film and the found footage elements of the making of the film.

At no point does it become jarring and disjointed, which it easily could. Truth be told, I would readily sit through the faux film “De Døde Våkner” (The Dead Awakens) as it had a real Fulci vibe about it.

Anyone reading this who has spent any time in the trenches of indie filmmaking will be able to relate to several things. There are moments when actors miss their marks, and the director constantly waxes about his vision.

One of my favorite moments is when director Julie, played wonderfully by Eili Harboe (Thelma), keeps making Arthur redo take after take while his poor co-star has to keep vomiting.

Project Z understands and highlights the complete lack of glamour involved in filmmaking.

A real standout performance comes from veteran actor Dennis Storhøi, playing a much-heightened washed-up version of himself.

Cantankerous, overbearing, and desperate to rekindle his former glory, Storhøi is fantastic in every one of his scenes. Seeing him sitting in his maid outfit, smoking full zombie makeup while being interviewed grumpily, made me chuckle. His excruciating self-tape for an upcoming Spike Lee war movie is another highlight, and anyone who has ever had to endure filming a self-tape will be able to relate to it.

If you journey into PROJECT Z expecting an outright zombie horror comedy, you may be disappointed, as you do have to wait a considerable amount of time before the real horror begins. However, as the film reaches its climax, Project Z doesn’t disappoint horror fans.

Dahlsbakken effectively uses all those well-established found footage troupes without ever leaning too heavily into the “stylistic suck” that can be a stumbling block for the genre. Cinematographer Oskar Dahlsbakken (the director’s brother) does a superb job maintaining the film’s aesthetic.

Unfortunately, Project Z doesn’t really bring anything new to the zombie genre. Still, it is a solid indie horror that manages to be both quirky and entertaining. Where Project Z comes unstuck is the ending as it is hoisted by its own meta-cinema petard.

Ultimately, though, Project Z is a clever, well-acted, shot and directed film. It may not change the zombie game, but it’s certainly a competent player.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3

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