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Simon Read [Celluloid 07.01.19] Germany post apocalyptic zombies apocalyptic horror thriller

A title card informs us that, following a worldwide zombie epidemic, only two cities in Germany remain. In Weimar, the infected are killed on sight, while in Jena, a cure is sought. Teenage survivor Vivi has been sheltering in a mental hospital in the beleaguered Weimar for two years, and has decided to volunteer helping to maintain the city wall - but finds coping with regular zombie attacks traumatising, and so leaves for the safe haven of Jena. Her journey brings her into contact with the tough, no-nonsense Eva, and together they make their way through the countryside, facing off against occasional zombies of the sprinting variety.

A quick check of the RT score vs the IMDb rating and it seems Ever After might be one of those films that critics love but audiences don't. It is ambitious and inventive and it contains good performances, but it is also meandering and ambiguous. It is a film that is not afraid of having its characters spend twenty minutes talking quietly on a broken down train, or ruminating in a forest clearing. Yes, there are zombie attacks, and pretty good ones at that, but the film is more about how the characters cope and stay strong, than about blood and guts.

Vivi is one of the more realistic characters I've seen in a zombie film. She is almost mute with trauma, her symptoms suggesting PTSD, and she suffers from night terrors at the memory of having to leave her younger sister to die during the initial outbreak. Eva is more your standard tough-as-nails post-apocalyptic warrior (she's handy with a shovel and has the foresight to pack rations) although she too has depth.

As its title suggests, there is a kind of fairytale vibe to Ever After, and the film references old stories like Hansel and Gretel and Sleeping Beauty. Quite to what end I'm not sure, but it's a neat idea. Butterflies and birds appear continually throughout the film - a nice visual touch.

The film adds an environmentally-conscious twist to the zombie trope, suggesting that Mother Earth herself has caused this mayhem in order to reset the planet. There are shades of Annihilation in how this is brought into the film visually, with humans literally returning to nature. It's not an entirely successful idea - like much in the film it feels as though it could have been developed and explored a little more -but I appreciated that it was something different.

Although the action is kinetic and well-directed, there probably isn't enough of it to satisfy gore hounds who will be put off by the film's rather languid pacing and lyrical focus on characterisation and 'feelings'. The film seems to be aiming for a philosophical note, but it is an awkward balancing act, especially when you consider that the living-dead are running around eating people.

Zombie movies were my gateway into cinema, but after all these years my heart often sinks when I have to watch another one for review. Ever After is a fine example of someone trying something new - a fairytale-inflected return to nature story, with zombies - but for all its ideas, it is just another zombie movie. The characters move towards their destination, they encounter other survivors, raid abandoned apartments, and they fight zombies.

The action and effects are all well-handled, and the performances are fine, and if you love zombie movies, fill your boots - but we've been here before. I'm still waiting for something truly different.

Recommended Release: Dead Sno

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