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Christopher Webster [Film Festival 09.24.11] Canada post apocalyptic zombies movie review horror

Year: 2011
Directors: John Geddes
Writers: John Geddes
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 6 out of 10

The Edmonton International Film Festival has a history of scoring some offbeat premieres and this year is no exception with the Canadian premier of John Geddes' civil war zombie epic Exit Humanity. So, when pretty much everyone else in the city was at the trendy Garneau Theatre for the festival kick-off and premier of Cloudburst (some Canadian film about elderly lesbians, or something) I was at the City Centre multiplex with about twenty other die hard genre fans, eager to be thrust into a war-torn undead epic.

Exit Humanity has an interesting pedigree of talent behind it. Some recognizable character actors like Dee Wallace, Bill Moseley and the great Stephen McHattie (who QE readers will remember from Pontypool) bring weight to the acting while Brian Cox provides heart-felt narration through the entire proceeding.

The film is about a soldier named Edward Young who returns from the War to his family as a plague of undead begins to sweep the country. Unable to defend his family, his son disappears and he is forced to kill his wife who turns. When Young leaves the homestead and takes to the trails to find his son, he documents his tale in a book which serves as the story.

Exit Humanity is impressive in its execution. Sweeping vistas, great cinematography and the visual charms of the period give the film something refreshing amidst the old-hat zombie problems. The zombies themselves, the make-up work, is also really well done. Though I wish they were a little more threatening when they did show up. For the most part they're fairly easy for characters to avoid which takes away a lot of the thrill. And yes, I know that zombies are a metaphor and humans are the real monsters, but you can't shelve the horror of the monstrous other in a zombie movie. Sorry, but it's the way it is.

So while I was impressed with the production aspects of Exit Humanity, I wish I could say the same about the storytelling. But while Geddes' script is ambitious and full of all the heavy archetype of a Leone western, he is just too determined to let all the seriousness of his themes boil to the surface that there is little engine to the plot. And I would argue that for this kind of movie, you need plot more than ever. But the first act is so ponderously serious that it went so far as to spur some awkward snickering from the crowd and I was worried that the film was in danger of losing them altogether. But to Geddes credit, the sumptuousness of his creation had everyone sucked in quite quickly and everyone was along for whatever dangers awaited Edward Young on his journey.

The film is punctuated by segments of animation which help to take characters further into the plot, but I think they also add something very special to the film. They are unique and full of atmosphere and with Brian Cox's voice behind them they just work.

I also want to mention Mark Gibson who plays the lead, Edward Young. He is truly a rising star and his performance carries much of this film. As mentioned above, Geddes has him doing a lot of serious pondering and screaming in to the night which gets somewhat tiresome, but I'll wager he has a great career ahead of him.

Exit Humanity is about a man dealing with the loss of his love and faith in a time of war, and the journey and people that eventual restore those things. In that I like what Geddes has created. It is ambitious and well executed. But its narrative often lacks direction and is therefore unable to truly compel.

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