They walk around in a glassy-eyed trance. They smile fixedly, toady to their superiors and keep uttering bland and ridiculous cliches.

They're the ideal corporate hacks of the future--ready, it seems, for any major weapons corporation, the phone company or the U.S. government. They're the elder student body of "Zombie High" (which opened Friday, selected theaters), all under the malign influence of the century-old faculty of the local high school: madmen who live on blood and want to turn every individualist on campus into another zombie yuppie. Or is that zuppie?

There's a nubbin of satire buried in this idea that might be promising: the pod people of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" metamorphosed into preppy clones. But, unfortunately, everything about "Zombie High" (MPAA-rated: R for sex and violence) suggests a student project gone awry: the grainy photography, variable lighting, wildly self-conscious acting, the shambles of a story drowned in semi-high concept, the dork jokes and lame formula suspense. There's even a sound track that seems slightly out of sync for 10 minutes or so, and some overly cute editing effects that suggest "Anything Goes" night on the old "Monkees" TV show.

The movie does have a few nice widescreen compositions, in the Ray-Preminger-Sirk mold. It also has an end-credits song with an unprintable title and a catchy bass hook, partially credited to "K. Richards." Ah, but it's mere subterfuge: the co-writer's name is not Keith, but Kent.


A Cinema Group Pictures release of an Elliot Kastner presentation. Producers Marc Toberoff, Aziz Ghazal. Script Elizabeth Passerelli, Tim Doyle, Aziz Ghazal. Production design Matthew Kozinets. Music Daniel May. With Virginia Madsen, Richard Cox, James Wilder, Sherilyn Fenn, Paul Feig.

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.

MPAA rating: R (younger than 17 requires an accompanying parent or adult guardian).

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