BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Jun 19th, 2012 •

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I’ve got problems with this film, but nothing that obfuscates its sincere intentions and consistently effective tone.

I wanted/needed a bit more Civil War action to really establish the mise en scene. And I grew tired of a first act in which protagonist Mark Gibson does little but whine, moan and wail. Admittedly he’s lost his wife and child, and has to deal with an unfathomable onslaught of zombies (in 1865), But it was just a bit too much of a well-motivated thing.

Also, the somber tone was so (intentionally) consistent, unrelieved either by patches of humor or fun or expressed romance – anything to give us emotional hills to balance the valleys – that the narrative became periodically tiring.

Now some of the pluses. The narration, which establishes a powerful mood and never lets up, was extremely impressive. It was so good it sounded like Brian Cox. Imagine my delight when the end titles came up, revealing that it was Brian Cox. So many low budget films, and a fair amount of higher budget films (think Harrison Ford’s droning voice-over in the theatrical release of BLADE RUNNER), lose ground steadily if the narration is weak. Low as their budget may have been, this production found a way, and made an astute choice in getting Cox involved. I’ve seen him pull off a taxing one-man show on Broadway with relative ease. His vocal instrument is pretty much in a class of its own.

Cinematographer Brandon Uegama always makes the woods and barren landscapes aesthetically compatible with the narrative. This is a near-two-hour film, and I never grew tired of his dramatic perceptions of the Canada-for-Tennessee terrain.

The score by Jeff Graville, Nate Kreiswirth and Ben Nudds, likewise hits no false or annoyingly familiar notes. Nor does it settle for a reiteration of what we’re seeing; it always gives us a little extra to digest.

I’ve got to assume that director/screenwriter John Geddes made himself abundantly clear to his teammates, and they got it right. Likewise the actors acquit themselves extremely well, zombies included. Considering that this is the umpteenth entrĂ©e in the zombie sweepstakes, it takes the correct fork in the road – its characters’ souls weighed down by the apocalyptic presence of the ubiquitous undead. The cast, for better and occasionally for worse, are all on the same forlorn wavelength. Guest name actor Dee Wallace, like Kelly McGillis in the excellent STAKELAND and THE INNKEEPERS, lends an anchoring gravitas to the proceedings. Jordan Hayes, Bill Moseley, and Adam Seybold also do fine work and never break character. And Mark Gibson is very good in the lead. I attribute his off-putting first act choices to Geddes, but at the same time I understand why the director made them.

Unlike all of Romero’s ambiguous pioneering groundwork, Geddes’ script chooses to provide a palatable explanation for the origin of the walking corpses. The artifacts that surround this revelation – parchment documents, etc., are convincingly presented – good art department work. And the zombie makeup is terrific. I’d use those guys in an instant.

The film, for no intrinsic reason (except perhaps to break the monotone previously mentioned), has periodic bursts of full animation. I found the device disruptive in the first hour, but quite lovely in the second. It just worked better as the film went on.

There are two commentary tracks, both featuring the director, but one also has two of the actors, and the other has two of the producers. The second is the more informative; it’s always enlightening to listen to the trials and tribulations of low budget filmmaking. This one had predominantly outdoor shoots, many of them at night, and much of it, unfortunately, in the rain. They discuss the ordeal of finding actors and friends to play zombies, and the logistics of wrangling them. While the zombies depicted in the film are creative and varied, it doesn’t feel like there were as many of them as the commentators describe. But that’s not unusual. When LAND OF THE DEAD was finished and test screened, viewers wanted more zombies. So they did a few extra days of zombie inserts. It seems the right level of zombie cameos in a film is hard to estimate. While this one doesn’t seem to have an awful lot, they’re very good when they’re making their appearances, and there are enough of them sprinkled around to make us anxious when they’re not in frame.

Bloody Disgusting, the company releasing this and several other (previewed on the disc) horror films to the DVD market, seems to have a particularly perceptive staff who are making canny choices in regards to which titles they acquire. Their upcoming roster (including one by Lucky McKee) looks every bit as classy and good as this one.

It’s worth mentioning that the same team that made EXIT HUMANITY also made MONSTER BRAWL, which has just come out from Image Entertainment, this time with Jesse Cook, one of the producers, writing and directing, and Geddes as one of the producers. Things are really cooking in Canada.

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