Hélène de Fougerolles
Justine Bruneau de la Salle
French Zombie Movie
Trivia This film apparently follows directly from a short from the same director, called simply Morsure. Shame they didn't put that on the DVD.
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26th Apr 10
The apocalypse is apparently going to be French, snowy and a bit arty, but ultimately pretty good.
Marco and Sophia are post-apocalyptic paramedics, currently paired with a couple of soldiers, and as Marco drives their ambulance through the snowy woodland road scene that opens the film, Sonia desperately tries to save one of the soldiers lives in the back. But the other soldier, a feisty black lady, just wants to see the wounds. So Sonia shows her the soldier's wounds - big bloody bite and scratch marks - and within seconds she's stopped the ambulance, thrown the wounded soldier out the back, and shot him repeatedly. She's obviously seen those kind of wounds before.
So, that's your very typical introduction to this version of the zombie apocalypse. As you can see, the usual stuff is here and has been made clear in the first few minutes. Infectious? Yes, definitely. Real zombies or just infected people? Well, judging by the way the soldier didn't particularly aim for the head implies the latter, which we soon find out is the case. And a third caveat on this movie's type of infection is the incubation time. You don't know it when the movie starts, but instead of 28 Days Later's matter of seconds, Shaun of the Dead's minutes or Dawn of the Dead's roughly a day timescale for the infection to take hold, here we're talking days. About 4 days actually, demonstrated throughout the course of the movie after the next pivotal scene.
Now down to only three, our protagonists make a pitstop (I forget why, food or fuel maybe) but, jumped by some infected, the worst happens. Marco shoots one infected, then the surviving lady soldier hits another infected, but in the process Marco gets shot and is sprayed by infected blood over his open wound. For the next few seconds the eyes say everything as the soldier tries to shoot Marco and Marco tries to shoot the soldier. Both struggle to hit the target, but Sophie decides for them, shooting the soldier in the head.
What are Marco and Sonia going to do? There are helicopters going overhead so rescue isn't an impossibility, but why would they stop? And what is Sonia's secret, and how come she thinks that there's a chance to save Marco?
As I mentioned earlier, the incubation time for the zombie infection here is about 4 days, and 4 days in a low-budget zombie movie is a long time. Not only do we see Marco battle the disease stage by stage, with some rather impressive SFX, not least the teeth pulling out scene, which though illogical (why would the infecteds' teeth fall out?) are quite gruesome, but we also get to see Sonia battle the disease and attempt to save him. Four days is a long time to try, and seeing Sonia's desperation turn to heartache is quite touching, something you don't often see in an intimate zombie flick like this. And rub is that, by all logical cinema conventions, at the beginning it does appear that she actually has a chance to succeed, meaning we inadvertently get to share in her pain.
Hélène de Fougerolles and Francis Renaud respectively bring sincere life to the Sonia and Marco roles, but the supporting cast do a great job too here. The soldiers from the beginning are functional, not being around long enough for you to really have an opinion of them, but the protagonists who enter the fray half way through, as bogus saviours, are excellent, especially as they're only out for themselves (which is a very entertaining thing to see in any post-apocalypse). The action sequences, what there are, are reasonably well handled and excessively gory in small doses, but do suffer from the same shaky-cam syndrome that has blighted the genre since Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later movie back in 2002.
The real thing to watch in this film though, is the cinematography. The snowy white landscapes, beatiful yet bleak, make this film and go along way to providing that rich aestethic that punctuates a lot of French cinema. Think early Luc Besson - films like Nikita and Subway and you'll have a good idea of the look and feel. Couple that with the nice acting, the heart-string tugging and the entertaining protagonists that appear in the middle of the film, and you have a nice movie. Couple that with the fact that the plot rattles on to a conclusive set piece ending which tidies everything, and you have a worthwhile entry to what is increasingly a crowded genre. As zombie movies continue to be churned out all over the world, it's good to see the French throwing their hats (should I say berets?) in to the ring.
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