I went into this film without much of an idea of what to expect. I had been told we were going to see your average corny zombie flick. And that's what I was gearing up for. A couple hours of silent Mystery Science Theater 3000 in my head� But it quickly became apparent that I was going to get something different. I wasn't even sure we were past the previews when I got my first glimpse of the film. It certainly didn't seem quite like something where I'd find a lot of zombies trying to eat everybody. It got even stranger with the slow pace set early on and the long deliberate pans over the barren city that came at what felt like the true start of the film.
This story deals with a research center and a group of activists on a mission to free a team of monkees from their sad plight. But we soon learn what happens when people don't do their homework. Or don't take the word of the frightened yelling scientist. The research has dealt with some sort of disease they have given to the animals in order to find a cure for it. Or something similarly scientific in thinking� But the end result was that the disease got out. And from there it spread and spread fast. It took effect in seconds and then sent the diseased person into a brutal rage with absolutely no concerns other than violence and death. Soon all of London was being evacuated. But that wasn't enough as we soon found out the disease was spreading to the rest of the world as well. A suitably grand story to set us apart from a simple zombie flick, as the twists continued to grow. We soon start to follow a young man who wakes up and finds himself in a deserted hospital and eventually a deserted city. And we continue to follow him on his quest to discover what has happened to everything he knew, find a way to cope and at the same time find something to help make things better. This film isn't immune from your normal jumps and violence. But it doesn't focus on them. More important are the characters and the levels of complexity behind the situation and the effects of it on them. "All the death. All the shit. It doesn't really mean anything to Frank and Hannah because. . .Well, she's got her Dad and he's got his daughter. So, I was wrong when I said that staying alive is as good as it gets." They learn to see through each other's eyes and manage in a new harsh world where an inability to kill man, woman, or even child may lead to ones own death. They also learn the hard way that not everybody sees things the way they do and that others may find different ways to cope and survive.
While many of the scenes with the "zombies" didn't interest me too much, they did manage to advance the film to the character analysis which I found much more interesting. The surprises were often surprising and the rest was used to wonderful effect. The "zombies" weren't frightening in themselves so much as disconcerting and frightening as a concept. We don't see long shots of them devouring things and in the end I found myself pitying them at the same time I was frightened of what they might do to the characters I was following. And more importantly, they even managed to poke a bit of fun at themselves and the type of movie they were making. "No, no, no. See this is a really shit idea. You know why? Because it's really obviously a shit idea." But of course they do it anyway. Wouldn't you?
This really was an interesting film. It wasn't what I would usually go see if I wanted a "zombie flick" but it was nice and different from most of what is out there. It came from the director of one of my favorite films, Trainspotting, and this really gives me some optimism about how much variety films this director could bring us in the future. If you're not too averse to seeing a bit of violence and some rather mature themes and you want to see a horror movie that isn't quite like all the rest, this could be a good choice. It was certainly an enjoyable surprise.
"I think Bill's got a point. If you look at the whole life of the planet, we, you know, man, has only been around for a few blinks of an eye. So if the infection wipes us all out, that is a return to normality."