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Ben Austwick [Film Festival 05.02.09] zombies movie review



Year: 2009
Directors: Rob Grant
Writers: Rob Grant
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 7 out of 10

It's unfortunate that the rash of low-budget zombie movies of the last few years has me approaching more of the same with such a heavy heart, but the sad fact is that the zombie zeitgeist has infected society so thoroughly it's often seen as a shortcut to genre success and an excuse to sidestep quality and imagination. “Yesterday” shows that the genre's core values – effective use of a small budget, an intelligent look at humanity, and of course a bit of horror – are still taken seriously by some film makers out there, even if a new direction for the genre remains elusive.


The plot is familiar stuff though nicely prescient, with what at first seems to be an outbreak of 'flu becoming something much worse as the infection spreads and the dead begin to rise. In the chaos a group of unlikely comrades come together – office workers, drug dealers and a Wild West-obsessed sports shooting champion – who decide to head out to the woods to escape the undead. Once there they find that panicking people in a world with no rules are far more dangerous than the zombie hordes.

Yesterday relies heavily on dialogue and interactions between its cast, a risky endeavour with amateur actors but one it manages to pull off. Credit must be given to the cast, but it's a certain low-budget charm that really helps things along. Delivery is often stagey and forced, but more than any other recent zombie film this one reminded me of the low-budget exploitation greats of the 1970s. It's in the wide-eyed sincerity of the actors, the no-frills practicality of the dialogue, the subtlety and sparsity of the humour, and above all the brilliant sound design, which sees cheaply miked-up dialogue meet muddy background noise and a great soundtrack of gloomy electronic chords to brilliant effect.

In a welcome change the usual modern day low-budget practice of filming in DV is eschewed in favour of good old 18mm film, the high contrast deep blacks, burning whites and grainy midrange working especially well in the claustrophobic close-ups that make up much of the film. This is ultra-low budget film making as it should be, recognising its limitations and playing up to its strengths.

There are criticisms to be made though. In this overcrowded genre a zombie film has to do something different to really stand out, and “Yesterday” treads very familiar ground. The best scenes are good because they are reminiscent of greats like Dawn of the Dead, not because they bring something new to the genre. The film's central premise of other people being the real monsters, well handled as it is, is similarly a Romero staple and pretty familiar. There aren't many scares here either, though an underlying sense of dread almost makes up for it.

Yesterday is an intense and pacey B-movie made with real skill. It isn't the much-needed jolt of originality the zombie genre is crying out for – that perhaps would be too much to ask from such a low-budget movie – but it does what it does solidly and effectively. A can-do attitude from director Rob Grant and his hands-on cast point to great things to come in the future.

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