Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Night Eats the World


In the beginning of this movie, Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie) goes to a raging party at his ex-girlfriend's apartment in Paris, squeezing through the careless crowds and yelling in order to barely be heard -- that he just wants to get his stuff and leave. A pretty miserable situation. Finally his ex tells him to wait in a room in the back for her. While he's waiting he falls asleep, and while he's sleeping -- well -- the night eats the world. That is, the zombie apocalypse rolls through Paris overnight, and when he wakes up in the morning he's the only person unaffected.


For a while -- after the horror wears off and he secures the apartment building from the roaming undead that is -- it seems nice. He collects food, wanders through people's stuff, and plays the drums. He gets everything to himself and is safe enough. He makes "friends" with his zombied neighbor who's stuck in the elevator. But as the days grow into months, the cabin fever, and the mental strain begins to take its toll.

You know how in blockbustery zombie flicks, the heroes are going around from place to place kicking butt and having a crazy dangerous time, and they always seem to come across someone or two, who are holed-up somewhere, too scared to move but running out of resources? They either take them with them, or get them killed, or both. Well, this movie is about the holed-up guy. It's a very quiet, introverted movie, and it relishes it. There are whole long sequences showing Sam exploring and organizing his new domain -- crossing off apartments containing zombies and collecting anything that fancies his interest. He makes make-shift percussion music out of bottles and cheese graters. And he spends long stretches of the film not speaking at all.

Even the zombies are quiet! They don't groan or growl like at all. It's actually unsettling.

I make it sound boring, I know. And maybe it would be to anyone who's there for relentless zombie action and nothing else. In that case, I fully recommend checking out Overlord which is in theaters. This is streaming on Amazon Prime, and much more cater-able to homebodies, but I seriously didn't find it boring at all. It accomplishes interest neatly by not explaining anything to us, so when strange things happen, we discover what's going on along with Sam, and there's always something to think about or notice. It's also about character progression as we see the way Sam's isolation slowly affects him, but we're never sure exactly where things will lead for him; what he'll do, or even what he should do. And yes; there are action scenes too.

If you enjoy imagining scenarios to try and figure what you'd do in that case, this movie's a great example of that. No path seems clear. It's dangerous outside, and inside resources are dwindling. I have to say it didn't lead where I expected it to at first, but where it did lead was, in the end, incredibly satisfying. It had such a clear train of thought, and though the trail wasn't obvious to us the audience until the end, once it makes itself known it's very open about what it's saying. The theme is tried and true -- especially in zombie flicks -- but it is played in a way that's refreshingly honest.

The small scale makes it all very intimate.

The lead is good -- a Norwegian actor I've never seen anywhere before. He keeps things consistently engaging, but I did wonder once or twice what it would've been like if a high caliber actor had the role. It could have become a rather exceptional acting vehicle. Not to say he was lacking, but just that the story could've added more layers with someone out for a great acting challenge. The cinematography doesn't get extravagant or pretentiously artistic, but I noticed a few shots that I really enjoyed the look of. Simplistic, neat framing and color use that complements the story's style.

I assume this had a pretty low budget, but it does what it wants to do splendidly. It uses practical effects mostly for the zombies, and when CGI is implemented it looks indistinguishable. Great quality on all the effects work. And though it doesn't have endless action scenes to deal with there are plenty -- and if anything, their less-frequent occurrences keeps you from getting dulled to the stakes, so even the smaller skirmishes are intense and engaging. The climax ramps it all up higher than I thought possible and deserves some serious props for a smart design, and for setting everything up in previous scenes.

I was really impressed with how well thought-out the plot was, and how well it worked with its theme.

Simple and on a small scale, but much smarter and more thoughtful than its kind generally is. It doesn't philosophize out loud, and definitely doesn't pander, but shows its work and comes away with a conclusion that makes you think, while feeling satisfied by a full, brief, and engaging tale of a single person who finds himself completely alone. Zombies for introverts. I'm a fan.

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