Horror/Drama – 2016 – 98 Minutes
An infection has ravaged the world. Victims are turned into mindless eating machines that will tirelessly hunt and kill anything – or anybody – that they come into contact with. Only the strong and clever can survive and even they live on borrowed time. It’s the plot that’s launched a thousand stories (and a thousand arguments about what constitutes a “real” zombie story, but we’ll let that dead horse lie).
A cliché is most often a crutch; an excuse for lazy filmmakers to stand on the shoulders of others and produce poor, paint-by-numbers facsimiles of their better work. More rarely, they can be liberating; allowing creators to build interesting stories within a familiar framework. They leverage the cliche rather than rely on it to direct them. Happily, this is an example of the latter.
Ann (Lucy Waters [IMDB]) is alone in the Northern woods. She’s developed techniques for dealing with the infected. She still walks the ragged edge of survival, but has come to accept her lot. When Chris (Adam David Thompson [IMDB]) and his step-daughter Olivia (Gina Piersanti [IMDB]) stumble into her life, she needs to reevaluate whether bare survival is enough.
While many of the themes will be familiar, the handling of the characters is deft and mature. Solid, perfectly subdued performances capture the quiet, persistent desperation of the situation. Exposition is provided organically through restrained, well-heeled flashbacks. The script deftly provides enough information to avoid frustration while leaving enough out to maintain interest.
The story doesn’t concern itself with the problems of the world at large. It’s small and deeply human. These three people aren’t working on a cure and they’re not going to kick-start civilization; they’re simply going to survive – or not – quietly, in the woods. The ending is telegraphed and likely to turn off some viewers, yet seems natural for the characters. It also earns points for lacking an inane twist.
The production is a an excellent example of performance-driven, minimalist film making. While those looking for action will be disappointed, others will find a solid, engaging drama.