"As We Know It" (2023)

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s director Josh Monkarsh’s zombie apocalypse comedy As We Know It, from Buffalo 8, Traffic City Productions, and Josh Monkarsh.

In the late '90s, James Bishop is dealing with a complicated breakup with the help of his best friend, while trying to finish his book before the impending zombie apocalypse.

The Good
Joseph: More buddy comedy than zombie comedy, the humor in As We Know It is of the lower-key variety. It’s Los Angeles in the 1990s, and slacker Bruce Springstine (Oliver Cooper) rides his BMX bike to the home of his best friend, aspiring science fiction writer James Bishop (Mike Castle), to help him avoid the ongoing zombie apocalypse — caused by bad soy milk — which James knows nothing about, as he has been stewing over the loss of ex-girlfriend Emily (Taylor Blackwell). Alas, Bruce has arrived too late for the friends to move, and Emily gets stuck with the pair in a failed attempt to escape to Seattle. This situation of being trapped together is where the bulk of the humor springs from, and it’s the type of comedy that results more in chuckles, smiles, and knowing nods than belly laughs. For me, that was enough, as I found all three main characters likable and enjoyed spending the 84-minutes running time with them as their need for chicken wings delivery and efforts to try to either salvage or end relationships took precedence over what was happening just outside the confines of James’s home. Cooper, Castle, and Blackwell all nail their roles. Pam Grier as next-door neighbor Ms. Jones and Danny Mondello as the wings delivery guy provide hilarious support. I found Monkarsh’s relaxed pacing to work well.  

Mike: As much as I loathe spoilers, I’m about to drop one right here before I’m even three sentences deep; As We Know It isn’t really a zombie movie.  I mean, yes, it happens during an outbreak and people are eating other people, but this is less about zombies and how to survive the outbreak than it is about a dude (James), his best friend (Bruce), and his ex-girlfriend (Emily), trying to realize where their relationships with one another went wrong and how then can repair them - IF they CAN be repaired.
The script by director Monkarsh along with Brandon DePaolo and Christopher Francis is smart with some great dialogue that runs from poignant to hilarious with a few stops in-between.  The humor is rather low-key and not in your face or overloaded with one-liners and obvious setup-punchline deliveries. There are enough 90s references, so there’s no chance of forgetting what the time period is for this, and even though it’s far from being original, the story is paced and shot quite well which makes it a pleasant (and familiar) journey.
Everyone involved does a great job with their characters, so it’s no surprise that viewers will find themselves quickly attached to them and feel fully invested in their fates. The inclusion of Pam Grier was a nice treat, and Chris Parnell and his great deadpan delivery is a nice addition. 

The Bad
Joseph: This isn’t necessarily bad for me, but for viewers hoping for gory zombie action, don’t expect much in that department. An end-credits sequence involving Chris Parnell as a news reporter interviewing one of the cast members (no spoilers here) drags on a bit, like a sketch or improv scene that doesn’t realize when it is time to finish. As always, humor is subjective, and the more laid-back style here won’t be for everyone.

Mike: For what it is and for what I expected it to be, As We Know It surpassed my expectations and so it’s really hard for me to see the forest for the trees of “good” and “bad”.  I suppose someone expecting yet another cookie-cutter zombie flick will find the dialogue-heavy proceedings dull and… uh… “lifeless”, so there’s an asterisked “bad” box to check off.  The humor may also fall flat for anyone that’s not a fan of nuanced humor.  Most off-putting may be the way some of the 90s references are awkwardly placed into the script (really the biggest and only real flaw I can pinpoint).  Many pop culture references from the decade of grunge are poked fun at via the fact we know what happens to things.  For example, Bruce and James are convinced Waterworld will be remembered as Kevin Costner’s finest work.  This is one of the cheaper ways of telling a joke and when it’s done too often it appears lazy.

The Verdict
Joseph: As someone who burned out years ago on zombie movies of any kind but still watches them with an open mind hoping for something different, I found just that with As We Know It. Humorous and well acted and directed, I recommend it for horror comedy fans looking for an unusual approach to the subgenre.

Mike: Based on the trailer I knew there wasn’t going to be a lot of zombie action, so I was not disappointed by that fact.  What I WAS, was pleasantly surprised by the quality and delivery of the dialogue which made this not-really-a-zombie zombie movie work so well.  Great performances helped make the trio of friends relatable, likable, and quite realistic.  Even when one or another is acting in a non-likable way, you become so attached that it’s easy to be forgiving.  The fact that I even mention this seemingly minor aspect should serve as a testament as to how well this is and delivered.  In fact, I think - with a tweak or two - it would make an excellent stage production. Maybe something for Monkarsh and company to think about.
The bottom line is that As We Know It serves up a poignant and humorous look at love and friendship against a backdrop of a zombie outbreak.  If that sound appealing and low-key humor with a few dashes of 90s nostalgia are your thing, you’ll be just fine checking this out.

As We Know It
, from Buffalo 8, opens theatrically on November 10, 2023 in New York City, Chicago, and Seattle; on  November 15, 2023 in Los Angeles; and on November 17, 2023 in Boston; on December 1, 2023 in Calabasas.

As We Know It
Directed By: Josh Monkarsh
Written By: Brandon DePaolo, Christopher Francis, Josh Monkarsh
Starring: Taylor Blackwell, Mike Castle, Oliver Cooper
Run Time: 1h 24m
Rating: R
Release Date: November 10, 2023 (USA; limited)