Saturday, July 28, 2012

Horror Film Review

Descendents (2008):  Zombie flick!  From Chile!  It's in English, so settle down.  I didn't know what to expect and I sure as hell didn't expect what I got.  Cinematic rules were broken...more like shattered...and while I usually embrace filmmakers with the guts and creativity to try something new with this sub-genre, there are certain things you just don't do.  That said, not all is lost.  Just most.

The world is decimated by a mysterious virus that transforms the afflicted into zombies (not so new).  Children born after this calamity struck are not only immune to the disease but also to zombie attack (this is new).  Oddly, these kids have three red slashes on either side of their necks.  Why?'ll see.  And be as confused as me, I suspect.

The film centers on Camille, a nine year-old girl who escapes from a government run hospital after her beloved mother is infected and the facility is overrun by crazed brain-munchers.  With her last breath, her mom begs Camille to avoid people, infected or no, and to go to the sea.  The rest of act one and all of act two focus on the girl wandering around the outskirts of a city, running from army guys who inexplicably shoot at her at every opportunity, and then discovering a small community of kids just like her.  The final act is where everything goes pear-shaped.  While the children are happily playing on swing sets and merry-go-rounds, the military swoops in and starts gunning them down.  Camille and two younger kids flee the massacre and are running down a road when a massive explosion knocks them flat.  They keep going but eventually collapse...on a beach.  When they regain consciousness, they stumble to the water's edge where they see a picturesque sailboat anchored just off shore.  They also see a purple octopus the size of a battleship slapping army helicopters out of the sky.  The final shot is of Camille who has changed into some kind of half fish, half girl creature, the slits on her neck now gills.  That's it.  Roll end credits.

The rule Descendents broke was not tossing a giant, mutant octopus into the mix but rather killing kids.  One kid dying for dramatic effect isn't off limits.  Wholesale slaughter of a group of them is.  Another problem for me was the notion of humans evolving into sea life in the span of a single generation (makes me wonder if Kevin Costner was on that sailboat).  You'll find similar lapses of logic throughout.  Such as:  besides helicopters, fighter jets fly sorties around the city, so we know the military has a command structure in place, which begs the question, why are they trying to kill kids they know can't get infected?  There's dramatic license and then there's stupidity.


Acting:  In a word?  Stinky.  Camille shows as much emotion as a lawn gnome and the other kids are worse.  Camille's mom just screams a lot. 
Story:  I do like the idea of kid immunity just not the sudden morphing into fish-people.  I realize it's a zombie flick, but at least make a half-ass attempt to root it in science. 
Direction:  It's a mess, really.  How do you make a 74-minute movie seem too long? 
Production Values:  Some of this was pretty cool.  It was shot in not-quite black and white which allowed them to emphasize things like the funky pinkish sky and, of course, the blood.  The ruinous cityscape looks properly bleak as do the individual sets.  I hate to say it, but the CGI purple octopus wasn't awful.
Gore/FX:  The zombies are are excellent.  Like 28 Days Later excellent.  Low-key gore but a number of shots where blood splatters on the camera lens.  At least the child massacre was relatively bloodless.
Scares:  There is one where a zombie creeps up on Camille from behind.  Beyond that, nothing.
Ending:  Octopus, fish-girl, sailboat.  Do I really need to say more?
Verdict:  Should you see Descendents?  It's from Chile, it's odd, and it's a zombie movie.  Since it's so short, I say watch it simply for the novelty.  Non-zombie fans should steer clear.  Way clear.

Rating:  2 out of 5

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