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Lots of people have an affection for the shuffling undead, but how many of us have really contemplated how long they’ve been around? The Greek zombie horror film (words I never thought I’d write in the same sentence) Evil in the Time of Heroes , had its Toronto theatrical premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival last night, and it not only gives us a satisfying modern zombie thrill, but also takes us back to how the ancient Greeks dealt with the same scourge. How, um, educational. But one doesn’t judge a zombie movie by its historical accuracy or complex plot points; one judges on the basis of the quality of the zombies and the gore. And Evil in the Time of Heroes , based on this criteria, kicks some serious ass.

Primarily, this is a story set in modern times, when some evil has been released that very quickly reduces most human beings to flesh-craving zombies. A small group of humans have banded together in a house to keep safe. And as if zombies weren’t enough for them to have to deal with, there’s a bunch of rogue humans taking advantage of the craziness, and shooting people for fun – shooting the healthy, non-zombified humans. Occasionally, the narrative cuts away to ancient Greece, where a few brave warriors have banded together to fight off the same zombie evil (just dressed differently).

And through all this, in both ancient and modern times, wanders a mysterious prophet, Billy Zane. Yep. That’s Billy Zane, from such awesomeness as Dead Calm and Zoolander and The Titanic . He shows up at the strangest times, alternately killing off zombies and looking for the “chosen one.”   He speaks some pretty good Greek, too (according to my Greek friend who was also at the screening), which makes sense since Zane’s family is Greek-American. My friend’s only complaint was about the film’s universally mis-translated profanity (the things you find out when you have an insider sitting next to you!).

But that tiny complaint doesn’t matter at all in the face of director Yorgos Noussias’ utterly fantastic zombies, over-the-top gory fight scenes, campy dialogue, and stylish camera work and editing. The soundtrack was also rather effective. Enough gore to satisfy the bloodthirsty among us, many of the characters often looked like they had bathed in blood. Severed limbs, impaled bodies, bullets taking out the entire back of a skull – the entire film, from the opening scene to the final credits, is a race against time (the “authorities” are sending planes to bomb the city to rid the world of the “infection”) and to stay alive.

The sheer scale alone is totally impressive – the number of zombie extras numbered in the several hundred range, making up fabulous mass zombie fight scenes in a sports stadium, or in a field. There are several outstanding arial shots of the post-apocalyptic Athens streets, and one of the stadium, post-carnage, where all you see is a fantastic stain of red. Well-shot, well-paced, thoroughly disgusting on the level of splatter, and laugh-out-loud, darkly funny (and it’s clearly meant to be funny), Evil in the Time of Heroes is completely satisfying.

You can find out more about the movie at their official website.

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