Toxic Lullaby – a review

May 27, 2011

Toxic Lullaby (directed by Ralf Kemper) is a German indie zombie TV-flick with an interesting premise: a girl goes on a massive drug trip, and when she wakes up, she has no idea who or where she is. Oh, and the world is in shambles. Hooking up with a bunch of mysterious survivors, the girl needs to find out what exactly has happened and what is going on. A nice premise, no? Unfortunately, the execution is lacking.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve said it, but the focal point of a zombie movie are its characters. Toxic Lullaby has lots and lots of those. Sadly, they’re all left at the “cardboard cut-out” level, basically just names and faces. That is TL’s biggest failing. Throughout the film not one of the characters is even a bit likeable, mainly because there’s nothing to like. Actually, there’s not even much to dislike.  In a zombie/survival movie this is a huge miss, since you usually want your viewers to bond with the survivors. Instead, what we have here is just a bunch of people running around. This is strike one for Toxic Lullaby.

The film goes for a very trippy feel, kind of like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas without the humour and in German. This is actually done quite well, as there is a genuine feeling of disorientation and trippyness. The downside is that it’s very hard to connect with the movie, as it seems to lack coherence. There are the unknown people mentioned above, and they’re doing things in unkown places for unknown reasons and motives. Sure, this is what it would feel like for the main character. For the viewer, however, it gets very frustrating after a while: “Who are these guys? Who are those guys? They came here because…? Now why did he just do that?” This lack of coherence makes Toxic Lullaby somewhat taxing to watch, and accounts for strike two for the film.

Of course in any zombie movie review, attention must be given to the zombies themselves. In Toxic Lullaby they’re called sleepers, as they’re mostly inactive during daytime. The zombies are pretty basic, just people in quick makeup akin to Romero’s first two films. The sleepers pop up every now and then, when they attack and usually kill someone. This is sadly done in fairly lazy action scenes with not much intensity. And of course, the characters killed are the non-characters mentioned above, so their killing isn’t much cause for drama. Also, the zombies seem to be almost like an afterthought. The movie mainly focuses on a broken-down society, with the sleepers simply adding a bit of a random element to it. As with the characters and the plot, the zombies lack focus. Why are they there? How big of a threat are they, actually? Because of this lack of focus, even the sleepers’ shining moment of mass destruction doesn’t convey the feelings it should. Zombies – strike three for Toxic Lullaby.

After all this honest and somewhat brutal critique, I must point out that the film isn’t without its merits. I actually liked the whole post-apocalyptic imagery and the locations that went with it such as abandoned buildings. The ending actually makes the movie make a lot more sense. The trippyness works, if you’re into style like that. It was pretty nice for me. The cinematography was nice, with a good contrast between the post- and pre-apocalyptic worlds. The acting wasn’t too bad, even if it wasn’t anything special either. Certainly decent for a low-budget feature!

Overall verdict: Toxic Lullaby is an ambitious project sadly let down by a lack of focus. With no real characters to relate to and no places or situations to recognize, the viewer is left feeling detached – something you don’t want to happen if you’re making a zombie film. Even with low production values, the film looks nice enough. With a better script Toxic Lullaby could’ve been very good. As it stands, however, I can  suggest seeing it only for its curiosity value.

Toxic Lullaby is available on dvd from Amazon.de as well as other sites.

One comment

  1. […] of the doubt. When it comes to the indie+German+zombies scene, I’ve so far seen a hit and a miss. Let’s hope for more of the […]


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