Saturday, October 31, 2015

Review: A Plague so Pleasant

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2015
Images from the Internet

A Plague So Pleasant
Directed by Benjamin Roberds and Jordan Reyes
Wild Eye Releasing / MVD Visual
73 minutes, 2013 / 2015

Zombies are everywhere, let’s face it. I’m not talking about the kind referred to by the de facto female lead, Mia (nerd-cute Eva Boehnke) as people who live their lives unconsciously, I mean there are so many zombie films, television shows and books coming out every year lately, it almost feels like an apocalypse on its own. It’s not often that someone finds a new approach, and this one, I believe, may be one of those rarities.

In the premise, the zombie plague has past, and after 12 hours of zombie shootings, the government figured out that they only go on mad-dash flesh hunts when provoked. Normally, they just roam around and have become more of a nuisance as the living go on with their lives, walking and driving around the slow, meandering dead. The “everyone who dies becomes one” idea is still used, but that they’re generally benign and that they actually prefer oatmeal in these sedate states of being is a nice touch.

Because it is only under threat or harmful actions against them that zombies turn into running flesh eaters for a few hours, it is against the law to hurt or threaten the walking dead. This is where the story of this film starts, when we are introduced to one of the three key players, Todd (Max Moody), a smarmy narcissist with a penchant for violence if he doesn’t get his way, who is talking to his roommate over breakfast. The roomie is the central character, Clay (David Chandler), brother the late boyfriend of the aforementioned Mia. Todd asks Clay if it’s okay if he dates Mia, who is completely hung up on her ex-, Gerry (Gerry Green “as himself,” state the credits), Chandler's brother, now one of the walkers. Mia is more interested in the dead Gerry than the living Todd (I don’t blame her; the former has more of a personality).

David Chandler as Clay
The first act is shot in black and white, and when Clay decides to take matters into his own hands, for the sake of Mia, it sets off a hive-mentaility zombie rampage, and the film then turns to color for the riot; all the better to see the blood, gore, and make-up. Now, this is not the first recent film to use B&W and color to represent different aspects of zombiedom (2007’s Wasting Away comes to mind), but it is exceedingly creative in its use of the ‘chromes and camera work. The story, is especially worth noting as, like I said, this takes a new spin on a very common genre, adding to it rather than taking away from it to the point of being distracting (e.g., I find it annoying when vampires are in daylight…I’m looking right at you, Twilight).

It’s hard to believe that this is the first feature for Benjamin Roberds and Jordan Reyes, because they really do have a good eye for angles, beats/editing, and working with new film actors (well, according to IMDB). Picking Chandler as the lead was a wise choice. He has an everyman look, so it’s easy to believe him in the role, and though some of the actions Clay takes are questionable, most of his motives are not; although I have to ask, really? Todd? For your almost sister-in-law? Mia is a bit of a flake, who would probably have been a hippie in the late ‘60s. She’s a bit of a clouded thinker, though if she lives long enough, would probably be an “earth mother” type. Boehnke plays her as a woman-child, thrilled by life (and death; she knits a cap for Gerry so he won’t be cold), and seems to relish the role. She hops and skips with joy even when surrounded by the dead, and yet as wacked out as she gets sometimes (the description of clouds is worth playing over), Boehnke somehow managed to keep her both likeable and attractive.

As for Moody, I realize his character, Todd, is stilted and on the verge of explosion at all times (and occasionally beyond the verge), but the acting is as stiff as the role. Either this is a great performance or a bad one, it’s hard to tell. Moody is particularly hard to read. I’m hoping this is the goal, because he really comes off as wooden. With one exception, everyone else in the cast is either zombie or zombie (potential) fodder.

I love that they have incorporated both slow and fast zombies in a way that totally makes sense. That was an ingenious touch that added to the mythos, changing juuuuust enough. There is plenty of red stuff, which in liquid form is often too dark and too thick, but I’m not going to quibble about that, because it still looked fine. Most of the make-up effects by Tylar Carver are quite good, some excellent, so considering this is his first listed credit, kudos and a nod to Tylar!

The extras are a bunch of trailers from Wild Eye (always appreciate that, WE) and a couple of under 2-minute promo shorts.

As zombie films go, this one stands out for me. It has a bit of humor, some off-beat characters, some very real ones to me (such as the boss droning and reading the government-issued rules on engaging zombies, sort of like how we were read the “Don’t be sexist” guidelines in one job I had), an imaginative reimagining of an oft-used genre, and for the shot of adrenaline that starts the second act. Even if you see the ending coming, it’s still a well done film, and I am looking forward to more from this Atlanta, GA team.



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