The Associated Press
They used to compete against one another, now they’re unified in a fight to save humanity and what’s left of their careers.
Members of boy bands Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, O-Town and former members of ‘NSync have joined forces as a posse of fictional gunslingers for the Syfy network original film “Dead 7,” which by no coincidence airs on April Fools’ Day. Call them the not-so-Magnificent 7.
This post-apocalyptic zombie western, created by the same brain trust that gave us “Sharknado,” stars Backstreet Boy Nick Carter (who also wrote the screenplay), O-Town’s Erik-Michael Estrada, 98 Degree’s Jeff Timmons and more of their all-but-forgotten ‘90s contemporaries — the film also stars members of male pop groups All-4-One and No Authority — as a group of ragged mercenaries out to save the human race while looking really hot in tight T-shirts.
An epidemic has turned much of the Earth’s population into flesh-eating zombies. The ghoulish army’s leader, Apocolypta (Debra Wilson), and her diabolical henchman Johnny Vermillion (BSB’s A.J. McLean) are amassing troops in hopes of taking over the planet.
It’s up to the hard-drinking Whiskey Joe (‘NSync’s Joey Fatone), sharp-shooter the Vaquero (BSB’s Howie Dorough) and several more former MTV heartthrobs (Chris Kirkpatrick, Jacob Underwood) to protect the living by destroying Apocolypta. And if there’s anything these guys know how to do (aside from syncopated dance numbers), it’s how to fight off mindless, crazed mobs who want to devour them.
But why, you ask, do we need a zombie western starring men in their 30s and 40s whose names once graced your sixth-grade notebook? Well, you’re reading this, aren’t you? Morbid curiosity — and that tender connection to your tween years — are powerful motivators.
It doesn’t really matter that the plot is as thin as the supermodels they used to date, the dialogue as awkward as a lip-sync track gone wrong or the action as clumsy as you were when you tried to copy that Justin Timberlake dance move (and no, he’s not in this film). The spot-your-favorite-boy quotient here, and the fact that they all appear to be in on the joke, makes “Dead 7” a blast to watch.
There are nods to the characters they once played in their respective boy bands — expect headbands, backward baseball hats and plenty of brooding looks along with those cowboy boots and ponchos. As for the zombies, they all look suspiciously in the right age group to be former fans.
Together they parody the zombie genre with over-the-top blood and gore. Limb-ripping fight scenes, blood-slurping feasts and heads busting like melons (it’s OK, they’re already dead) are staple scene movers here, while human organs and facial parts are snack food throughout.
Daisy Jane (Carrie Keagan) and Sirene (Lauren Kitt Carter) are also part of the zombie-slaying crew and provide the requisite blood-splattered cleavage needed to complete a production of this caliber. As for other non-boy band actors, Jon Secada plays the mutton-chopped sheriff and Everclear’s Art Alexakis the nasty guy in the saloon.
And, of course, the film is accompanied by a new, original song: the Backstreet-98-O-Town-Sync collective number, “In the End.” It’s as artful as the film.
Surely “Dancing With the Stars” or doing a reality show about substance abuse, weight gain, stripping or the torturous minutia of family life would be safer ways back into the public eye — some have gone down this path already — than a western with dialogue so stiff it practically creaks like those old floorboards in the saloon. (“It’ll take every bit of fight we have left to save what remains of humanity … if that’s what you want to call it,” says the narrator.)
But these guys saved you once before, even if it was only from the painful onslaught of puberty. It only seems right for them to return in the hero role again, if only to make you laugh.