Deon (Jeff Smith) is a troubled high school student, beleagured by a reputation that’s afflicted him two years since his parents separated. He’s has few friends and frequently gets into fights, though his biggest fight is yet to come when a deadly zombie outbreak unleashes at his school.
Amidst the panic, Deon journeys out to find his mother, Isma (Cut Mini Theo), who suffers from Alzheimers. Both are eventually trapped in the complex, but are soon in the company of two militiamen, brothers Reza (Dimas Aditya) and Reyhan (Edo Borne), who’ve managed to survive the plague that’s engulfed the city.
The military soon engages efforts to conduct a search for the serum with the help of Deon’s father, Richard (William Bevers). Meanwhile, deadly conflicts of interest arise as Reyhan’s menacing thirst for control endangers the group, forcing Deon and Reza to face off against a threat even deadlier than the army of undead swarming the city.
With Indonesia and cranked-up metal music as the backdrop, filmmaker Amanda Iswan’s attempt to elevate the zombie genre in Zeta: When The Dead Awaken, aims high enough to elevate the genre through a sophisticated lens. At the core of the film though, from the very top of the film, is the story of the only son of a broken family, and it’s just one of several human relationships in the film that serve as an allegory for karmic rule.
The intensity picks up when we meet Reza and Reyhan, and watch as things begin to unravel, with Isma ultimately put in harm’s way. It’s an interesting inflection point in the film as Deon wrestles with his own resentment to try and be there for her, only to find himself helpless, with Isma soon turning the tables on character tropes, going from ailing and helpless, to something even greater in nature.
The action in Zeta: When The Dead Awaken, doesn’t take on anything new that fans of the genre haven’t already seen, but does a good enough job to keep the pace up at times when needed. There’s a cool moment in the third act that borrows a bit from the Andrzej Bartkowiak playbook, which serves well enough as action fan service to spruce things up some.
Fans of horror, zombie thrills and gore will get a kick out of Iswan’s feature debut. As far as male action leads go, Smith fares well enough to stand out as a rising talent and would be more than welcome for another round given the right project comes forward. As for Iswan’s freshman feature, it’s not a masterpiece, but it’s a solid way to kill ninety five minutes.