Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet
Directed by Antonio Tublin
The Orchard / PingPong Film / Logical Pictures
95 minutes, 2019
Paul Simon once famously sang, “Love emerges and it disappears / I do it for your love.” That’s a tidbit to hold onto in this zombie apocalypse dramady taking place in London, though it’s origination is from Scandinavia (Demark and Sweden), though filmed in English.
Well, zombie is debatable. As with 28 Days Later… (2002), the world is infected with a virus which turns people into wild flesh eaters (“fast zombies”), but the debate can be later discussed on whether these are technical zombies because we’re not really sure if they are still alive. I’m not gonna touch that question or discussion at this time.
We are introduced to very attractive couple John (Ed Speleers, best known for Eragon in 2006 and “Downtown Abby”) and Karen (Zoë Tapper, who has appeared in several British programs such as “Mr. Selfridge” and “Demons,” where she played Mina Harker).
When the infection shebang hits the fan, they are in a strained relationship due to not being able to reproduce their beauty to children (my snide take on it, not the films), so they are stuck in their high-rise apartment waiting for rescue while the world explodes around them. They hunker down with food they’ve stolen from other apartments, and apparently a vast amount of wine and various hard drugs.
These tight quarters, of course, force them to refocus their relationship and rebuild their bodies to fight whatever may come through the door, and relearn about each other. The dialogue is witty and there is a strong, dark sense of humor about it all.
But while the world turns dark, strangeness also is rising in John and Karen’s haven during the second act a third of the way into the film when a couple from the building that they don’t know (but whose apartment they pillaged) show up at their door asking for help. Reluctantly, they let that other variance of evil in, in the form of Emily (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) and Leo (Jan Bijovet). This second couple see what our heroes have, and plan to do whatever it takes to make it their own, in their version of murder and pillage…but who’s the stronger and willing to risk the most?
But this is only one set piece that includes roving gangs, intimate dialogue, and yes, those pesky zombies that are only present in the storyline on occasion, though they are the spine to the entire story.
This is not 28 Days Later…, which is wide roving through London. This is more personal and claustrophobic as nearly all scenes are shot in their apartment, and as other characters may come and go, John and Karen and their travails and swirling relationship are the focus of the story.
There is definitely some violence and blood, but no more than you would see in a gritty crime drama, but because its so sparse, it also makes it even more effective in a little-is-more way. Sometimes the violence comes as absolutely shocking, other times you’re cheering it on, as this couple delve ever further into a symbiotic unit that focuses on what must be done, while the mayhem also robs them of their social humanity piece by piece.
That’s what makes this a smart film, in that the presence of zombies are always felt, but rarely seen, and the story focuses on the cultural breakdown while waiting for that rescue. Survival is a strong master, and one does what one must; it’s the human imperative. And yet through it all there’s the intimacy and tenderness.
The one thing that drove me crazy about the story, though? And Jeez, I know just how petty it is, is as follows: our intrepid couple in the high rise are stuck there for a long yet undefined time, and yet the electricity never goes out. In a real crisis where society has completely broken down? I’d give it a couple of days, max, even with the generators and batteries.
Well, despite that last paragraph rant, this is a strong film that wisely refuses to take any one direction of thriller or romance, but manages to have extended periods of both, and they make it work. Of course, the quality of the actors and a strong direction by Tublin also help.
If you want a bloodfest, this is not the zombie film you are looking for; if you want a deeper story with some human emotion, well, it’s worth checking out.