This review was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the film being covered here wouldn’t exist.Of all the many zombie movies and shows that have been made, it is hard to think of ones where the impending end of the world at the hands of the undead has been met with a celebratory mood. There have been plenty of zombie comedies where our expectations for how this is supposed to go are torn apart just as the characters are, but the ubiquity of this story means there is always a hunger for something with a little bit more bite. Enter Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, an adaptation of the manga of the same name by Haro Aso, where the end of the world is merely the beginning of an initially sharp though increasingly superficial entry in the genre. It is a film that sets out to sink its teeth into something a bit deeper and more inventive only to merely serve up an experience with little to actually chew on.

The one doing the chewing while also trying to avoid becoming a meal himself is the young Akira Tendo (Eiji Akaso) who we first meet when he has gotten a new job. While initially thrilled at this opportunity, he gets a rude awakening when he is made to work for days straight under a domineering boss who takes him for granted. Any passion and joy we see are subsequently snuffed out as he begins shambling his way through life. He doesn’t want to quit though also begins to contemplate ways to get out of work by other means. This includes a grim moment where he considers suicide as he has been pushed to his breaking point. Thus, when the zombie apocalypse destroys everything he has ever known, this is exactly what he has been looking for. Once his shock subsides, he shouts out in joy at the prospect of not having to work himself to the bone any longer even when said bones could be ripped from his body. It is a promising start that gives way to a standard story that is occasionally silly though still ultimately slight. While not every work is going to change zombie films as we know them, this one had the potential to offer something far greater than what it actually delivered.

‘Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead’ Quickly Loses Its Charm

Image via Netflix

The initial hook of the film, where Akira is going to go about checking off his bucket list and living life to the fullest even as everything has gone to hell, is full of promise. In many regards, just being with him alone is where things could be rather joyous if the film had the patience to sit with them. Just seeing him goofing around is plenty of fun and where a more creative story could have started to carve out something special. Alas, this is fleeting as the film effectively speed runs through its more intriguing start to get down to zombie business as usual. There are groups of survivors that must reunite, journeys to be made, and communities to be discovered. Rather than turn zombie horror on its head as some other interesting entries in the genre have done and what this one seemed to be doing, it increasingly falls into overly familiar territory. Even when it literally takes to the sky, this is confined to montage as opposed to being a central part of the experience. Everything else remains grounded with the amusing moments ultimately feeling buried under a general tepidness that takes hold of the film.

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What is most disappointing about the whole thing is that Akira is a wonderful character to build around. Even just his early shift from being vibrant and full of life to being beaten down by his job is effectively done as we see the light begin to leave his eyes. The moment where that returns as he shouts out before the title drops elicits a smile as we see that occur in the most unlikely of situations, the zombie apocalypse, that works because of how it is juxtaposed against what preceded it. That the happiest he has been is when the world ends is a stellar joke, but it is something the rest of the film is generally lacking. Some of this is tonal, with it losing its more cutting comedy for forced dramatic beats, while much of it is in its construction. For every absurd aside we get, like one surrounding a past football game that then transfers over to a solid gag about tackling a zombie, much of the rest feels recycled from other zombie works of the past. There was even a sense at a certain point that this could have been a disposable episode of The Walking Dead. It isn’t always like this, with the film having a bit more flair here and there to be consistently bad, though it is mostly mundane.

The Ending of ‘Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead’ Jumps the Shark

Eiji Akaso as Akira Tendo in Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead.
Image via Netflix

This reaches a breaking point in an ending that just feels like it is shambling along with little of the joy of what preceded it. There is a baffling moment where a crisis is created in a way that makes little sense in how poorly staged it is, but the greatest problem is the way its early thematic promise is largely abandoned. Even a ridiculous final zombie creation can’t give it enough spark to catch fire. For a film about breaking free of convention and trying out new things to make the best of a bad situation, Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead is mostly just bad. It does get the checking boxes part down, but there is little life to the experience. There are a whole host of moments where characters make grand proclamations about the importance of embracing life where you can and not falling into just going through the motions. Rather than feel triumphant, one just wishes that the film itself would have heeded its own advice.

Rating: C-

The Big Picture

  • Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead had the potential to offer something innovative though ultimately falls into familiar zombie territory.
  • The initial concept of a bucket list in the midst of a zombie apocalypse is promising, but the film rushes through it to focus on a mostly standard zombie survival story.
  • Overall, Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead is mostly mundane and fails to live up to its early promise.

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead is on Netflix.

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