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Gustav is a teenage boy who is more than interested when an attractive girl moves into the house opposite with her mother. However, before he gets the chance to properly get to know her a black-clad and masked figures appear on the streets, spraying what appears to be some sort of detergent. Everyone is forced back into their homes at gunpoint, and soon afterward the houses are sealed with heavy plastic sheeting. It seems there has been a contagious outbreak of a virulent virus which is turning people feral. For Gustav, his family and the other local residents it becomes a matter of survival, but not just from the virus itself…
Whenever a virus-related horror film emerges these days you can virtually guarantee it’s going to involve zombies somewhere along the line – even if they are not referred to as such. I’ve seen more zombie films than most people have had hot... brains! Very few movies of this type have inspired me enough in the past to become a fan of this sub-genre. However, every so often one example will catch me by surprise.
Although zombies are the root effect of everyone’s life-threatening upheaval, they are pretty low-key in their presence for much of the story. What really makes this one work so effectively is not so much what is happening to the characters and their until-now mundane lives, but how those characters react to this sudden fight for survival. In reality, people would react in very different ways, depending on their temperament – and that’s exactly what happens here. I suppose Gustav, as the main protagonist, is a realist in that his first thought after the black-clad soldiers with breathing apparatus and automatic weapons appear on his street to threaten the residents to remain in their houses and then proceed to seal-up the residences with heavy black plastic, is to sneak out onto the streets – at risk of his own life – in an attempt to find out what is really happening.
There is a scene wherein we see bodies being scooped-up by front loading shovel vehicles and dumped into containers, which is a little reminiscent of the 1970s film Soylent Green, about over-crowding and based on the book Make Room, Make Room, by Harry Harrison – although in this case it is utilised for the purposes of showing the problem is more widespread than just a handful of houses. I particularly like the manner in which the peril is cranked-up another notch (along with corresponding suspense) every so often. The figures on the street, the spraying, the threat of being shot, mass panic, the very real possibility of starvation… Not to mention the infected. Even the TV news begins as a minor story, before escalating to the point that the signal is lost altogether.
This is a very impressive and edgy debut from Danish director Bo Mikkelsen. It is a zombie film that isn’t about the zombies, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. Characterisation here is key. The only factor which lets down the DVD release is the absence of any notable extras.
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