Let’s be real; who hasn’t sat at their desk at work and let their mind wonder into fantasies of taking out a co-worker? And by “taking out” I don’t mean in a fraternizing, “I’d like to see what’s under that sensible pants suit” sort of way. I mean like two to the head of that bastard three cubicles over who takes the last poppy seed muffin every morning. Yeah, you, Bob. Blow me. Now, though, with Office Outbreak, you can live out your fantasies without fear of spending the rest of your life in jail!
Having contagious zombies unleashed inside an office building is a brilliant concept for a horror movie — basically The Office meets 28 Days Later — combining a relatable setting with the terrifying notion of being trapped in it. Rather than go for scares, though, writer/director/ producer/occasional actor Shawn Woodard aims for tongue-in-cheek satire, skewering everything from office politics to reality shows, racial profiling and Enron-style corporate scandals. The writing is admirable not only because of its social digs but also because it contains some genuine humor, particularly from workers George (Dave Daniels) and Chris (Dorian Hale), who announces the zombie horde by deadpanning, “They’re eating arms.”
Unfortunately, most of the remaining cast doesn’t have quite the comedic timing, meaning that some jokes fall flat before you even realize that what was written was actually kinda funny. Such are the hazards of low-budget filmmaking. Other casualties include the sketchy sound and lighting and the scarce gore (What, no bowels?), although that’s all more easily overlooked than the acting.
The story itself goes like this: George wins a Survivor-like reality show but for some odd reason returns to work. One day, Ahmed (Isaiah Hole), whom George backstabbed to win the money, comes to confront him at work, not realizing that he contracted a flesh-eating disease on the show. Soon, Ahmed has infected almost everyone in the building except for a team of auditors who’ve just uncovered an accounting scheme that their bosses have hatched to bilk the company out of its 401(k)s. The team has to fight its way through the zombie hordes, while their bosses actually wouldn’t mind if the undead eat ’em all before they have a chance to snitch.
It’s a great premise with a fresh mix of horror and observational — at times absurdist — comedy that’s rough around the edges due to its limited budget. That said, Office Outbreak is superior to a lot of the more high-profile DTV junk cluttering horror aisles, and it’s refreshing to see a black director with a multi-racial cast in a corporate environment with nary a rapper in sight.