Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Exit Humanity (review)

Exit Humanity

Zombies are the rage right now, and as usually happen, once something gets “hot” the quality goes in the crapper.  That’s especially true with horror archetypes, and zombies are one of the worst affected.  In fact there are more bad zombie flicks, than there are mediocre to good ones.  So it was with a healthy dose of skepticism and resignation that I decided to rent Exit Humanity.

On the plus side it featured both Bill Moseley and Dee Wallace, two horror icons that never phone it in.  It was also set in the American West (actually in Tennessee, but no nit picking) shortly after the Civil War, and hell, I’m a big fan of Red Dead Redemption Undead Nightmare.

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Set in 1875, Exit Humanity is the story of Edward Young played by Mark Gibson.  After encountering the undead during the final days of the Civil War, he returns home to his wife and son.  He returns from hunting one day to find his son missing and his wife one of the undead.  He kills her and goes in search of his son.  During his search he comes across Confederate General Williams played by Moseley who is looking for a cure to the outbreak, and to rebuild Tennessee to its Confederate glory. Ultimately he is forced to choose between joining Williams or making his own way in a world overrun by the dead.

It got off to a rough start.  I’m not a big fan of narration, and the early parts of the film are heavily narrated by Brian Cox. Normally I’m a fan of a film being told by the actors through their acting, not voice over or exposition. The first fifteen minutes of the film there is virtually no dialogue except the narration.

 At this point I wanted to watch the film through the protagonist’s, played by Mark Gibson, acting. I wanted to discover the film through his facial expressions and body language, not a narration that seemed to never end.  Strange thing though, when the narration ended, I missed it.  The narration is used in spots throughout the film and it’s like an old friend come back to visit. 

After getting used to the narration, I thoroughly enjoyed this film.  Mark Gibson, as Edward Young carries the film excellently.  He tells you his story, with and without narration, by the pain in his eyes, his tears and body language.  The supporting cast never gets in his way.  Bill Mosley who is usually a hyper kinetic maelstrom is probably more subdued than I have ever seen him in a role.  That doesn’t make him any less menacing or horrifying. In fact it makes him much more real, much more believably evil.  Stephen McHattie, another horror legend, gives an insane but also subdued performance.  Honestly I barely recognized Dee Wallace even though I knew she was in the cast.  The supporting cast did their job perfectly, they supported, allowing Gibson to shine and carry the film.

Exit Humanity is in fact a quiet film, as far as zombie films go.  True there is gunfire, screams and gnashing of teeth, but for the most part it is a quiet film.  A film driven by the main character on his quest, first to find his son, then to find a reason to live in a world of the dead.

His quest for his son ends in the way such a real life quest would be bound to end.  No happy ending, no miracle, and the film makers play it out early, not dragging it out, but not pulling any punches or making it easy on the viewer.  After this quest the film could have easily devolved into a kill em all, find a cure generic zombie flick, but instead the story continues to develop.  It seems like it was written almost as a series of short episodes, instead of a movie, and even has animated chapter markers. Each chapter marks the protagonist’s downfall, and resurrection, as he exits humanity to find his own humanity.

Exit Humanity uses innovative filming, shifting from live action to animation for certain scenes, and even using time lapse for at least one scene.  The animation at first seemed a bit gimmicky; you just aren’t expecting it in a serious film.  The animation is used sparingly and mostly to illustrate (if you will) parts of the story outside the normal continuity.

The time lapse scene likewise hits you with no warning but it works perfectly.  It heightens the tension of the scene and allows the film to progress without an overly long scene of the character running through the woods.  It’s just an innovative way to portray an almost cliched scene.

The Canadian scenery is beautiful and breath taking.  You can forget you are watching a horror movie, and believe you are watching a modern western.  The score compliments the film work.  Usually I barely pay attention to the score unless it sucks up the movie but the music here swept me up.  I loved it

If I could change one thing about this Exit Humanity, I would give Moseley more screen time, and possibly flesh out his character a bit more.  I saw the potential for a great film villain.  He was a villain, who as evil as he was, had a cause, a cause that, while not inherently evil, had been warped by him and his beliefs.  The final confrontation between Moseley and Gibson was beautiful, quick and final.  I just wish we had more time with Moseley’s General Williams before the showdown.

Some people might find it too slow, and not enough zombie action, but personally I will take a slower less hectic film.  A film that moves at a natural pace not the rapid cut MTV style horror movie.  How many of those style horror movies are actually good?  I have also heard people complain about the lack of zombie hoards in Exit Humanity.  When I was watching it I wondered where all the undead were coming from.  This was the 1800s in the Tennessee wilds.  It’s not the big city of Dawn of the Dead or The Walking Dead. Besides I would rather see an intelligent film than just two hours of head shots, wouldn’t you?

If you haven’t guessed by now, I really loved this film.  It was touch and go for the first maybe 10-15 minutes, but it grew on me rapidly.  If you like zombie movies, but prefer your movies to have a little soul, I think you will like Exit Humanity.  So skip all the other low budget trash, and pick up Exit Humanity, this little Canadian film is worth the price of admission.


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