Cowboys vs Zombies review

Cowboys vs Zombies: The Devil’s Crossing

(USA, 2014)

Director/writer James Ryan Gary feature debut, Cowboys vs. Zombies: The Devil’s Crossing was made on $5,000. With this kind of budget one would expect some flaws, but the true flaw is with the screenwriting. The film was originally named The Devil’s Crossing and was made in 2011, not getting an US release until December 2013.

When the film opens we see the protagonist Shadrach (Michael Sharpe) digging a wintery grave in the woods, talking to who is perceived to be the grave digger’s boss. This scene sets up what appears to be a period piece. But don’t let this fool you. Onto the next scene, the opening credits. We are now in a “saloon” in a town called Celeste. The first thing you notice is the bar has electrical lighting and an air conditioner. Then you notice the clothing is a mixture of 1800s styles and contemporary styles. The characters talk in period language and modern-day jargon, and they also carry western style holsters, pistols and long rifles. So what is this, a period piece or a contemporary one? But this is only the beginning of the confusion.

Later than sooner, we learn from the bar owner that there was a great war, but this generic insight could mean World War III or the Civil War. Whatever the case, by the time the flailing, jerking and twitching zombies show up — 30 minutes into the befuddlement — you no longer care. There is simply too much disorientation and lack of a strong main character who you feel empathy for, for you to invest anymore time into the movie. Moreover, the script lacks plotting. The film later reveals that the entire reason the town of Celeste is besieged by the undead is because Shadrach, a soul collector who the devil has brought back from the dead, refuses to kill a murdering rapist in an act of defiance. So he allows the town to be needlessly slaughtered, only to kill the rapist in the end, nullifying any point of the movie.

When I originally posted this article there was some confusion with what film this actually was and who directed it. There is a film called Zombies vs. Cowboys listed on IMDB directed by Carmelo Follo, which contains a nearly identical plot summary. Researching the original 2011 movie, I discovered that this is indeed a post apocalyptic film set 235 years after a great war, in what is now being called the New Dark Age. The original synopsis sounds like the making of a good film, unfortunately that is not the case with the final product.

The film’s fairly solid acting cannot make up for the poorly developed characters, incoherent script, poor plotting, the film’s unemotionality and its mediocre direction. Cowboys vs Zombies fails to deliver any sense of doom or horror or empathy, or for that matter anything interesting.

Cowboys vs Zombies
Directed by James Ryan Gary
Written by James Ryan Gary
Cast: Michael Sharpe, Patrick G. Keenan, Kevin L. Johnson, Jenny Gulley, Chris Walters and Tim Holt
Run Time: 75 minutes
DVD Release Date: June 3, 2014