'Dead 7' Doesn't Quite Deliver The Boy Band Cheese

Asylum, the production company responsible for the Sharknado franchise, has made their name on manufacturing purposefully second-rate SyFy original movies. A truly lovable cult classic cannot be reverse-engineered, but I'll admit, boy band zombie mashup Dead 7 is a shockingly bizarre TV movie, and it's almost weird enough to be strangely watchable. Produced and conceptualized by former Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter, SyFy's Dead 7 is more than just a chance to see Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, *NSYNC, and O-Town sharing the screen. It's incredibly ambitious, with Tarentino-esque title cards, a dozen characters to keep track of, and a surprisingly dense mythology. However, (and maybe this is Asylum's influence) Dead 7 simultaneously lazily rips off the zombie genre, particularly The Walking Dead. There isn't much to the Western similarities, unless you count characters wearing cowboy hats and a totally unnecessary visit to a brothel.

Our heroes and most of the villains are all boy band veterans Nick Carter, Jeff Timmons, Joey Fatone, Howie Dorough, Erik-Michael Estrada, Chris Kirkpatrick, and A.J. McLean. Led by Billy (Timmons) and Jack (Carter), the titular "7" fight against hoards of zombies on the post-apocalyptic wasteland, chasing down a witch named Apocalypta, who can both create and control the zombies. I love Apocalypta. I love any villain who wears false eyelashes during the apocalypse.

The zombie kills are bloody, if nowhere nearly as ambitious as The Walking Dead's committment to total gore. But eyeballs are gouged out, limbs are detached, and geysers of (mostly animated) blood explode out of gunshot wounds. There's also some inspired details, like teeth being used as currency or the zombies being called "copperheads" instead of "undead" or "walkers" or some other generic name. There's also a nice touch of giving each hero a boy band-ready apocalyptic accessory, like Komodo's (Estrada) microphone. Unfortunately, not even these moments of weirdness or the thrill of seeing the former music stars of the late '90s and early '00s can make the entire movie exciting.

Ultimately, what takes Dead 7 from being an enjoyably weird experience to a slog that you can skim is two things. First, there's the length — this should have been a neat 45 minutes — and second, not enough characters are as delightfully over the top as Joey Fatone's Whiskey Joe. It's not like Fatone is demonstrating Oscar-worthy chops and the rest of the cast isn't, they just simply don't have enough distinguishing features besides "he was in *NSYNC!" or "Hey, isn't she married to Nick Carter?" Fatone, at least, gets to play a drunken weirdo with an enormous mustache who literally explodes. Wilson would be even more entertaining if Apocalypta had any discernible motivations, but McLean, as her sidekick, is doing a half Clockwork Orange, half Joker performance that's pretty fantastic.

Even though he came up with the wackier elements of this universe, Carter made Jack a featureless "badass" character who's no fun to watch. Even Andrew Lincoln gets to show more emotional range as Rick on Walking Dead. And if this is supposed to be a fun genre sendup, more silliness was required. That's my biggest request for the next time this gang teams up for some SyFy shenanigans: more charm. May I recommend sending the boy banders to space? Or perhaps putting them in superhero tights? Unfortunately, Dead 7 is no cult classic: it's best enjoyed in GIF form. At least boy band fans got a great song out of it.

Image: Raymond Liu/The Asylum/Syfy (2); Giphy