By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) -
The previews for this one make it look like District 9: Electric Boogaloo, and everything about that made me happy. Thankfully I didn’t get around to watching it until the hype machine has turned on it and my expectations had died down.
This is not District 9, and nor is it like less accomplished big-budget destruction porn, but rather a small road trip indy wrapped in a high-concept sci-fi package. This, too, makes me happy.
The story behind this one is crazy, and deserves a whole round to itself. The director, Gareth Edwards, was able to shoot this with 15K worth of equipment and a crew of seven people in a van, sometimes using wadded-up clothing to steady his camera because he couldn’t afford a dolly.
All of the acting is various degrees of non-professional (even the leads are far from “experienced”) yet most of the scenes were improvised from a script that consisted mostly of scenarios. Edwards himself did the special effects on his laptop. This should have been a disaster of made-for-tv proportions, and the assured, well-shot, and entertaining flick that emerges is stunning in context.
What’s your excuse, SyFy?
The concept of the film itself deserves a tip of the cup. It takes place in a world existing after the territory most monster films cover- the attack. Photographer Andrew is tasked with escorting his employer’s daughter, Samantha, home from Costa Rica, which is made trickier by the fact that most of Mexico is an “infected zone.” When they miss their chance at safer transportation, they decide to traverse this territory.
The movie is beautifully shot, and the concept of a world adapting to disaster is adeptly intercut with the main characters’ adaptation and interaction with the local culture. Between this and District 9’s Neill Blomkamp, sci-fi really is becoming fertile territory for new directors once again.
Sure, I could pick apart the acting, and the dialogue is less than perfect at times, but considering the circumstances and budget of this film, that really isn’t fair. The one thing that bothers me with this one, though, is the opening scene. While its inclusion certainly makes sense once it’s all over, it’s kind of out of character with the rest of the film and the overall effect has been done before, and better. It’s the only story element that feels forced, which is a shame considering an otherwise surprisingly contrivance-free film.
After watching this, Universal offered Edwards their recently acquired blockbuster franchise, Godzilla. How much more of an endorsement do you need?
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a drink: every time you think you’ll see the monsters, then don’t
Take a drink: every time you see a wrecked vehicle
Take a drink: every time someone says “zone”