I’m a bit partial to a zombie movie and this Irish take by David Freyne weaves an exploration of power and marginalisation with some satisfying action and horror.
Ireland is a country that is still affected by the outbreak of the Maze virus that turns people into cannibalistic zombies. A cure has been found and the 75% who have recovered are about to be returned from quarantine to their communities. The other 25% resistant to the cure remain behind in high security confinement.
Senan (Sam Keeley) is one of the cured and is taken in by his sister-in-law journalist Abbie (Ellen Page). She is the sole parent of her young son as her husband Luke (Peter Campion) was killed during the outbreak. Senan’s closest friend is Conor (Tom Vaughan-Lawler), another cured but someone harbouring a deep resentment at how the cured and resistant are treated.
Identified by a mark on the eyeball, the cured return to menial jobs and the hatred and violence of the rest of the community. Like parolees, they have no autonomy and must do what they’re told and accept what they are given, even if that is the violence of UN soldiers like Cantor (Stuart Graham).
It doesn’t take long for Conor to start to agitate for violent change and the parallels with the actions of the IRA during Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ is clear. What begins as a social drama slowly escalates into a high tension thriller with a helpful dose of jump scares to get your heart pumping.
The synopsis says that it is the fact that the cured can remember what they did while infected that is the misfortune but it is that no one else is willing to forget that is the real tragedy. There has been a fair bit of online criticism about the film’s premise being unoriginal, provoked mostly by the press around it calling it “bracingly original.” Cited are the British 2013 TV series In the Flesh and the Spanish 2013 film The Returned. Not having seen either, I can’t comment, but it seems an error in promotion rather than a surprise that such a concept has been explored before.
Keeley is great as Senan and carries the heart of the narrative with serious intent. Vaughan-Lawler is excellent as the malevolent Conor, and the flashbacks to scenes of him and Senan during the outbreak are very effective. Ellen Page is the most bankable star in the film but unfortunately is given an underwritten character that is almost peripheral to the plot. She is there to symbolise Senan’s guilt and only has a few brief scenes where she has any agency. That they reduced her to a weepy mess at the end really annoyed me – she would run out alone without hesitation, armed only with an axe to kill a zombie but can only blubber when things get hard. Mother’s in mainstream films don’t get to step outside of the mould very far.
Now if it had been Manana from Scary Mother, she would have pulled herself together and started writing it down. And Alicja from Fugue would have smoked a cigarette and packed a bag. And Dara from I Used to Be Normal would have found the perfect Take That song and danced the night away.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.