Zombies. They’re everywhere. They’re on our DVD shelves, on our television screens and in our Netflix queue’s. Their hunger for human flesh seems only equaled by their hunger for our entertainment viewing time.
We’ve long thought and wrote that zombies, by nature, are a boring antagonist. Whether fast (28 Days Later) or slow (Night of the Living Dead), zombies have little character, can do little more than moan, and are usually only scary when accompanied by a horde of other flesh eating zombies.
A quick Google search of zombie films listed over 700 titles which would suggest that the genre from which George Romero made a career has been done (dare we say it….) to death.
The oversaturation of the zombie genre mustn’t have been lost on writer/director John Geddes. His awareness of the ‘been there, done that’ factor must have been electrifying the talented Canadian’s synapses when he began scripting Exit Humanity – a zombie film set shortly after the American Civil War in the 1870’s.
Exit Humanity follows a solider by the name of Edward Young (Mark Gibson in a thoroughly convincing role) who is returning to his homeland after the American Civil War. The War might be over, but the fight as just begun. Zombies run the landscape and when Edward’s wife turns, Edward is forced to kill her in gruesome fashion. Edward then embarks on a journey to find his son – a journey that will be fraught with the undead.
Director John Geddes does a fantastic job of making the landscape and the era a character unto itself in the film. The location shoots standing in for America circa 1870’s is what gives Exit Humanity a creative edge in a tired genre.
But where praise can be lauded for the setting, issue can be stated for the length of the film combined with a seriousness that alienates a bloodthirsty audience hungry for splatter. Long stretches of monotone description and explanation fell flat and left us bored and indi-glowing our wristwatch to determine the remaining minutes of the ordeal.
There is a good story to be told here, it is just executed with such a lack of urgency that it wears down its audience and wastes supporting roles by Bill Moseley, Dee Wallace and Stephen McHattie not to mention a fascinating narration by Brian Cox that supports the animated sections of the film which are unarguably the film’s high points.
While waiting in line and reading the Toronto After Dark program and their description of the film, we were hoping for a Dead Birds (2004) type of horror periodic. Instead, we got an interesting but ultimately defective experiment. One that slipped more than it gripped and was flawed more than it gnawed.