Horror/Thriller – 2016 – 92 Minutes
Molly wasn’t having the best life before the zombie apocalypse. She used her body to seduce any man that could supply her with enough booze and drugs to forget her past. Her latest was a wannabe gangster in Las Vegas. The only question was whether she’d live long enough to lose her looks and get tossed away down the chain.
Still, she had some luck left. When the zombies appeared her boyfriend knew somebody with a plane at an isolated airfield miles outside the city. All they had to do was get there, and he would fly them to safety. Halfway there, her luck ran out. Now she’s on foot in the desert, miles from the airfield and her only companion is a relentless zombie.
The phrase “Design by Subtraction” may come from video games, but applies perfectly here. The filmmakers stripped traditional zombie stories to their essence. No never-ending horde to throw themselves at never-ending bullets, no eclectic group of survivors forced to work together, nowhere to hide, nowhere to fortify. Simply one desperate woman and one ravenous zombie in a desolate waste.
This part of the story works extremely well. Detractors may mock Molly’s lack of ingenuity in being unable to take out a single zombie, but it fits her character perfectly. This is a woman who’s spent her life as an accessory for others. Somebody else handled important things, not her. Her heroism isn’t simplistic action tropes, it’s simple dogged determination and it reveals itself slowly.
The cinematography is simple and effective. The blinding heat and light of the desert day is contrasted excellently with the pure black cold of the desert night. Wordlessly, the movie never lets us forget that the environment is as, or more, deadly than the zombie.
Later, as additional circumstances are introduced, the movie veers into more traditional territory. While this somewhat tarnishes the purity of the original premise, it does service the story. We’re allowed to see how Molly has gained the confidence to confront her personal demons.
The story ultimately lives or dies on the quality of Brittany Allen’s performance as Molly. It’s a difficult character: she’s selfish, crude and generally unlikable. It’s a testament to Allen’s performance that she (eventually) earns redemption and the empathy of the audience.
By removing unessential elements from traditional stories, the team has created a sharply focused, highly engaging story. Despite a comparatively weak ending, the execution of the core concept and Allen’s excellent performance makes this a must-see.