Lately, it seems like America has been “plagued” with a lot of zomedies that have given that horror genre a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth. Sure, a more serious, more well-developed storyline that revolves around zombie horror had become somewhat rare that I almost immediately jump at the chance to see a good serious minded zombie film. Even the proclaimed horror maestro George Romero had failed to deliver the goods recently (yes, I said it, even legends can falter). I have found the best zombie epics in recent years in the pages of “TheWalking Dead” graphic novels and it wasn’t until “The Dead” that I found some hope for more films about serious zombie horror. It is rather hard to find a footing when it comes to originality when it comes to the zombie genre, and it is refreshing to find writer/director John Geddes seems to have his head on straight with his zombie film “Exit Humanity”.
The 19th century and years after the American Civil War, Edward Young (Mark Gibson) returns home only to find his son missing and his wife had been turned into one of the undead. Forced to destroy his wife, Edward then sets out to find his son among the hordes of the walking dead as he documents his story in a journal. But what he finds is something much more dangerous, as a group being led by a rebel general called Williams (Bill Moseley) is using human beings to find some sort of a cure for the zombie outbreak. Edward finds a new purpose as he agrees to help a man called Isaac (Adam Seybold) in the rescue of his sister, Emma (Jordan Hayes). But humans seem to be the much more dangerous threat as he also learns the secret of a woman called Eve (Dee Wallace)…
John Geddes keeps his story simple and has the usual familiar themes of humans turning on each other, and how the undead never seemed to turn on each other. The writing also pitches in the usual idea as to how humans must stick together to survive a crisis, and how people should have some belief in hope. The zombies in this film are your traditional shambling, slow-moving undead which gives it a more nostalgic feel. The story does feel familiar, but the way it is told feels rather unique (or maybe I am just burned out with all the silly zomedies) as he uses a rather different timeline; he chooses America during a rather chaotic period after the civil war (Ok, I skipped Abe Lincoln versus Zombies). It was a nice idea as he takes his viewer into the world as seen through the eyes of a man pretty much at the end of his rope.
The lead character, Edward pretty much takes the lead in the telling of this tale. Geddes uses a lot of emotions felt by one man to round up the devices and elements that make up the plot. It was clever for the direction and the scripting to use the atmosphere of a tale told through a journal as narrated by Malcolm Young (Brian Cox). It gives the film a feeling of authenticity in the execution of its script, Geddes even uses some animation sequences to mimic the illustrations in the journal. The film is divided into several chapters, which rather makes the screenplay episodic, and yet it never felt convoluted. The script is pretty smooth in delivering the layout of its story, despite some minor undefined developments and some things that require a suspension of questions, I liked the screenplay. It wasn’t over-reaching and kept things simple as a story of one man who finds hope in the people he had formed a bond with.
The supporting characters carry some clichés in them, but they did not bother me much. They were developed well as part of one man’s story, and the part where the zombie plague isn’t some sort of virus was a move that pleased me. I felt that it was a way to go back to the basics, as the origins of the plague is indeed the doing of mankind but this origin goes back centuries. The characters Emma and Eve represent something important to the script, as something called the darkness and the light of humanity’s soul (their clothes even express this idea); they represent the film’s moral stances. The General Williams character represents the opportunist, who wants to gain something out of a tragedy.
Moseley did the best he could to be that twisted villain that makes one question humanity. Isaac is the man who befriends Edward, that proves to be the necessary catalyst for the lead character to be set on his way. While the direction had some rough spots in the execution of emotions (I felt that Edward’s yelling got a little too melodramatic the longer the movie goes on), dialogue was a little uneven and that the film dragged in some areas, the acting was very decent for a low-budget film of this kind.
The cinematography has that muted color scheme, and the more the film goes into the brighter sides of the screenplay I noticed the colors becoming much more alive as if it is saying that the situation is about to take a new turn. It was a nice touch to allow the colors to convey the film’s mood. Much of the film takes place in dark areas in the woods, but the camera work was able to communicate such bleak atmosphere. There is no CGI in the film (or none I noticed) save for the animated sequences. The zombie make ups were pretty well executed, and had a common color scheme to give the undead familiarity. While the film had a few grisly images, and it had a good showing of bloody scenes, the direction practiced some restraint in the gore which I liked.
“Exit Humanity” may not be epic, but it sure was a good zombie horror-drama. It did get all its focal intended devices and elements incorporated well into its script, while it missed some, they weren’t too much to really nit-pick. I would have liked to see how the zombie infection could affect an animal, but I guess I cannot fault the film from trying to stay within the realms of its intended emotional drive. Amid all the zomedies, I am glad the more ambitious serious-minded zombie horror films appears to be making a few credible comebacks. Let’s hope they can keep it up.