Automaton Transfusion (2006) (DVD)

Take a recycled concept, grab some cliché characters, put them in a brutally horrendous situation and what do you get? A creative director providing one of the most exciting and horrifying independent zombie movies in years. “Automaton Transfusion” has the chips stacked against it from the beginning with a plot that could either be really good or really bad, but the entire film works and it’s barely ninety minutes. There’s not much plot to be taken here, which really isn’t a caveat.

“Automaton” bases its appeal around zombie carnage and searing tension that involves the sporadic zombie outbreak occurring in a small city due to an unknown blood disease. As it spreads from neighborhood to neighborhood, three guys on the way to a party find themselves in an onslaught of the walking dead anxiously trying to get to them. But hero Chris wants to save his girlfriend, and must now team with his two friends to get out of the city and to a safe location from the running dead.

Cue splatter, gore, and truly interesting characters who are vaguely drawn individuals but nonetheless sympathetic and heroes we can competently root for. Miller doesn’t really seek to completely remold the living dead sub-genre, as he creatively takes the mixture of the infected from “28 Days Later” and makes them flesh eaters, which is really all they are, but the make up is so effective, and the choreography frantic, that “Automaton” is constantly on a high energy pacing to the point where it will keep the audience in relentless suspense and anxiety.

The struggle of these four individuals to get to a safe haven is reliant on constant obstacles that effectively keep them on the verge of a nervous breakdown battling with mindless eating machines that are much cleverer than we think. Miller and co. aspire for all out balls to the wall gore approaching outrageous lengths including unborn babies, and easily detached heads. “Automaton” is only the first part of a story much like the end of “Fellowship of the Rings,” and “Night Watch,” and that’s just fine since hopefully Miller will deliver with a fascinating and engrossing tale about government corruption, a town that may not be a town after all, and two survivors willing to dig deeper and stop this once and for all; or at least discover whether this outbreak has spread too far to stop it.

If “Contingency” is as good as this was, then I’m perfectly willing to follow these people into the hordes of flesh eaters long enough just to uncover this mystery. You have my faith, Miller, don’t piss it away. Ultimately it’s hard to pronounce but fun to watch, but “Automaton Transfusion” is the first of a proposed trilogy (To Be Continued…?) that many will either reasonably find issue with or appreciate for its aspirations to be an epic part of a three pronged arc.