In a small, remote village in northern Quebec, things have changed. Locals are not the same anymore - their bodies are breaking down and they have turned against their loved ones. A handful ... Read allIn a small, remote village in northern Quebec, things have changed. Locals are not the same anymore - their bodies are breaking down and they have turned against their loved ones. A handful of survivors goes hiding in the woods, looking for others like them.In a small, remote village in northern Quebec, things have changed. Locals are not the same anymore - their bodies are breaking down and they have turned against their loved ones. A handful of survivors goes hiding in the woods, looking for others like them.
So first, what works. The Zeds here generally look like people, with maybe a blood stain on their clothes or some similarly subtle indicator of a past violent encounter, as opposed to glowing eyes and blackened skin. It's an effective choice because it isn't always obvious just exactly who is and who isn't a zombie. Adding to that confusion, zombie behavior is also more low-key. When they are in full agro mode they scream a mostly human scream and charge at full sprint, but a great deal of the time their behavior is more complex.
Just seeing an uninfected human doesn't necessarily set them off; often they simply stare with a kind of blank, almost thoughtful look. And if a human is in a position of relative safety, like inside a closed vehicle, they might just quietly move up to the window and stare as if patiently waiting for the situation to change. It's intensely creepy because it suggests a kind of rudimentary strategy to their behavior rather than simple mindless aggression. In more than one scene they actually do use this false calm as an actual strategy, hiding their numbers and using a few quiet zeds as a lure for the unwary.
But the zombie intellect is also, to me, a double-edged sword. Part of what makes zombies zombies is that they become a mindless shell of their former selves. They look like us, but aren't us. Make them too intelligent and it kind of seizes to be a zombie, in my opinion. Instead it becomes more like the virus just switched their loyalties. "Yesterday, Bob was wearing a MAGA hat and talking about border security. Then he got bit and now he's talking about safe spaces and income redistribution. Get the gun, he's infected!" (J/k and FYI I literally flipped a coin to decide whether I would joke about switching from conservative to liberal or vice versa, so please don't read into that!).
Also, the rules for the zombie intellect are never very well established; sometimes they just hang out in traditional herds and look for victims, other times they are shown holding hands, hiding in trees to spy on people or collaborating to build...something, in a field. Not only do they seem to have some hidden purpose motivating them, but occasionally after raising the alarm they pause to watch the humans flee, as if they were mostly just concerned with keeping people out of their business. These ideas are introduced but never explored, which raises the question: why bring them up at all?
Another trick the movie used that I think is kind of overdone and/or unrealistic is the claustrophobic camera trick. This is where the camera focuses on a character and everything seems fine until...bang! An attacker swoops in from out of frame to destroy them. It's good for a jump scare, but come on. What, they have zero peripheral vision? That trick is liberally used along with the related 'camera pans over some danger, then away, then back, and so on a couple of times, but the last time suddenly the danger isn't where it was before'. What happened to the danger? Oh, it's right on top of you. It's scary, but again, the zombie made zero noise while running flat out 100 feet through the forest? Do all zombies get stealth training?
In the end I think the movie works more than it doesn't. There's a nice level of persistent tension that keeps you on edge most of the movie to offset the lower-key nature of the action, and the cinematography is moody and beautiful. There's also some real cleverness I haven't seen before, like using an infected but as-yet still human survivor as camouflage of sorts for others, since the zeds don't see them as entirely human anymore. It's doubly interesting because it adds this tension dynamic between that person's usefulness to the group and their potential as a threat. There's also some nice comedic moments, not all of which entirely land (I'm looking at you, clueless soldier survivor) but still, it cuts up the tension a bit.
The zombie craze seems like it's fading these days; probably we're seeing the last of these for a few decades until it gets "rediscovered", but I think we've built up a nice stockpile to tide us over. In the end I don't think this will go down as a classic, but it's a decent watch if you have Netflix and I'd recommend it on that basis.
- Feb 6, 2019