Plot: Tia (Celeste Desjardins) is battling some serious health concerns, as a number of brutal symptoms ravage her and the list of afflictions just seems to grow, with no real end in sight. Her skin has turned a sickly color, her memory is fading fast, and of late, her body reacts in strange ways to injuries, such as no signs of blood when her skin is damaged. Meanwhile, she finds herself with a strong hunger for brains, as she is indeed a zombie and when she consumes the animal brains, the pain eases up, but she knows it is just a temporary solution. Tia isn’t just going to let the disease consume her however, so she pushes forward in search of some kind of treatment or even cure, careful with who she reveals the truth to. But when she crosses paths with criminal teens, she finds herself in more trouble than ever, so can she fight off the zombie infection and solve a murder mystery at the same time?
Entertainment Value: If the premise of Zombie at 17 seems a little familiar, perhaps you have watched the television series iZombie, which I have to think was an obvious source of inspiration for this Lifetime original. The narrative is centered on Tia’s quest for both a cure and justice, but the murder mystery tends to get the real substance, with the zombie elements more of a background factor. Tia’s struggle with declining health and imminent zombie status are a constant presence, but don’t do much to push the story, which is where the murder investigation picks up the slack. In essence, this feels like an extended episode of iZombie and even glosses over some story threads, due to the limited run time available. I appreciated the attempts to give Tia some depth, but there are some dead ends in the narrative that seem like a waste, when more pertinent story elements could have been used. This is also much more serious and restrained than most Lifetime movies, so the melodrama and general craziness is low, while the horror side of the zombie thread is minimal. So even if you dislike zombies or horror in general, you can still appreciate Zombie at 17, I think. I found it to be a solid drama/mystery, but too slow and overly serious, well made to be sure, but not just not much fun and the story never reeled me in. But if you prefer the more serious, straight forward Lifetime style thrillers, you might find more to like here.
The cast of Zombie at 17 is fine, but no one really stands out as memorable and I have to think the material could have better played to the strengths of the performers. The very serious tone doesn’t mesh well with the cast, which seems more suited for teen drama than this kind of material. So perhaps if the material would have dialed things up a touch and filtered in some melodrama, it could have masked the some of the weaker links in the lineup. Celeste Desjardins has the lead and she is passable, but doesn’t do a whole lot beyond look sick and deliver basic dialogue. The nature of the role seems poised to allow for some dramatic presence, but Desjardins plays it simple and doesn’t convey much. She is sincere and more than competent, but doesn’t make the most of the role and that dampens her performance. To be fair, no one really steps up to steal the show however, so even the mediocre efforts don’t stick out too much. The cast also includes Laurie Fortier, Seamus Patterson, Alanna Bale, Carson MacCormac, and Jack Britton.
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