There's 2/3rds of a great little indie flick to be found in Automaton Transfusion. Despite a handful of clearly evident flaws (most of which come from the inordinately low budget, and not from a lack of effort), this 71-minute zombie-fest has more than enough energy, mayhem and gore to keep the serious horror freaks entertained -- but one can't help feel that the movie was released in half-cooked form. From the truncated running time to the consistently shoddy video presentation, the thing feels precisely like the "backyard production" that it is. But having survived dozens of these (generally worthless) movies, I'd settle for the "partial" movie that is Automaton Transfusion than most of the other 'do-it-yourself' horror flicks.
You want a plot synopsis? Cool. "A town is overrun by zombies." That's literally it. We're introduced to a broadly forgettable group of characters, but don't worry about trying to keep track of the young folks. 70% of the flick's idiots are dead and zombified before they get six lines of dialog out of their mouths. A small group of survivors bolt from garage to high school to basement, and at every stop there's another (ahem) transfusion of seriously explicit carnage. What the movie lacks in plot development and legitimate characters (which is a lot), it seems intent on making up in gruesome gristle and freakish flesh-eating. (Seriously, this is one splattery movie. There's a quick bit involving a pregnant mother that threw me for a loop, and it's fun when a jaded horror guy gets a surprise.)
"Gore flick" is certainly a legitimate sub-genre beneath the horror heading, and Automaton Transfusion is most definitely one of those. It barely makes an attempt at being "scary," but thankfully it does take its zombie stuff pretty seriously. (Nothing sinks a $25,000 horror movie like a cast who keeps winking at the camera.) If you find yourself having a hard time with the flick's aggressively grungy look, just pretend you're watching a sketchy old zombie relic from 1982. Once I got used to the movie's "handycam" look, it actually added a little campy charm to the proceedings. And say what you will about the questionable acting or the almost complete lack of "plot," but for a mega-low-budget movie, the gore effects are both powerfully plentiful and surprisingly effective. Oh, and the score is quite good. That always helps.
Given the movie's brief running time and almost ridiculously abrupt ending, part of me wishes that someone had given the Automaton producers an extra 10 grand to polish their baby up a little. As it stands, it's an amusing diversion for only the most ardent of horror fans. But give these guys a half-decent production budget, and I bet they'd turn out one powerhouse horror flick. Perhaps the fact that Automaton Transfusion was purchased and distributed by the Weinstein brothers means that director Steven C. Miller will have a little more cash on hand as he moves forward on Automaton Transfusion: Contingency. Yep, the sequel's already brewing.
Fortunately the DVD extras seem intent on making up for the relatively brief movie. There's a solid 26-minute "making-of" featurette that offers a few interviews and segments of on-set footage, as well as a feature-length audio commentary from writer/director Steven C. Miller and producers William Clevinger and Mark Thalman. The (optional) commentary continues on four deleted scenes. One of Miller's short films, Suffer or Sacrifice, is also included here, as are two music videos: "Can You Hear Me Now" by Blinded Black and "Arsenaholic" by Dancefloor Tragedy. Rounding out the (surprisingly stocked) DVD is the Automaton Transfusion trailer.
Basically, when I'm "judging" a movie I look at A) what it's trying to do, and B) what it had to work with. Based only on those criteria, I'd certainly call Automaton Transfusion movie a successful effort. Maybe not a cult classic waiting to happen, but certainly more worthwhile than most low-budget zombie flicks. And no, I have no idea what the title means.