Exit Humanity (2011)
Dir. and written by John Geddes
Starring Mark Gibson, Dee Wallace, Bill Mosely, Steven McHattie, Adam Seybold, Jordan Heyes, Stephen McHattie, narrated by Brian Cox.
|As far as I can tell, this never played theatrically and doesn't have a poster. But I appreciate the blatantly misleading boxart on the Canadian DVD.|
This is one of those Micro-budgeted Indie Horror movies like ABSENTIA, THE PACT, THE CORRIDOR, and so forth. It was obviously made for almost nothing, but unlike those other movies this one has ambitions of a really fucking epic scope. It’s the story of former civil war soldier Edward Young (Mark Gibson, obviously using the same stylist as the singer from Mastodon) who finds himself in a zombie-infested wasteland shortly after returning home to his family. He sets off across the country on an apocalyptic walkabout, and along the way he meets various people and gets involved in their lives and problems.
|Never look a gift zombie in the mouth.|
The downside to this one is that it may actually be the lowest-budgeted film in this whole subcategory of horror microbudgets. There are certain sequences here which they just seem to straight up not have the money to shoot, and they’re jarring substituted with some rough, somewhat exaggerated animated sequences of hoards of zombies, horses trampling zombies, and so forth, pretty much anything they didn’t have the money to film. You know me and my love of animated horror, so I was kinda stoked by these little interludes, which have a nice comic-book style to them while still maintaining the grungy, lived-in vibe of the rest of the film. But sprinkling them in randomly throughout a film which is 95% live action was a bad idea. They appear too infrequently to get used to, and they’re simply too stylistically different from the quiet, staid live action sequences, making them seem cartoonish and silly by comparison, and then making the live stuff seem stagy and dry when you get back to it. The gimmick rests on the idea that Young is writing and illustrating in his journal as he goes along (hence the reason Brian Cox is constantly narrating to us about things which we can already see) but the animated segments are so nakedly used to cover up budget gaps and so intrusive when they do appear that it makes the whole thing feel a little more amateurish than it needs to.
The “journal” trope also divides the film into episodic “chapters” which made me think that this must have been adapted from a novel (it wasn’t). It has a literary sort of feel to it, though, which at its best feels like the kind of book adaptation which confidently substitutes silence and ambiguity for prose, and at its worst feels like a cheapie reenactment for a Ken Burns civil war doc (complete with overwrought letters being read over the action and describing exactly what we’re already looking at). It works more often than it doesn’t, but the awkward parts are pretty dire when they come around, especially in light of the noticeable lack of cheap thrills.
The upside, though, is that outside of those constraints the rest of the film is pretty decent, and at the very least unique. It looks nice, with convincing period locations and costumes and committed performances from all the leads. And it has a very welcome deliberate, meditative pace, confident enough to spend quite a bit of time simply following the protagonist as he wanders, silently and alone, through the scruffy Eastern woodland where even the occasional zombie is an unusual sight. It’s a rare apocalyptic film which successfully conveys the loneliness of a world with a lot fewer living humans. It’s a quiet, serious kind of film which spends much more time on small character moments than zombie mutilation. It’s amateurish in some obvious ways, but there’s a commitment to atmosphere and character here which ultimately wins the day. Plus, you get Bill Mosley as an insane ex-Confederate, Stephen McHattie as what I assume was written as a tortured drunk (literally all his lines are slurred to the point of being unintelligible. Hopefully that was intentional.) and Dee Wallace in a rare modern performance where she gets to actually play an interesting character and not just a cameo. As a whole, it’s probably too uneventful and zombie-light to appeal to hardcore horror fans, but for someone looking for a little bit of a different take on the material, it acquits itself nicely.