Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Dead Genesis - review

2010 (Canada)

Contains spoilers.

It's quite hard to describe exactly what director/writer Reese Eveneshen's Dead Genesis is. It's not really an action film despite there being quite a lot shooting and killing, it's not a horror albeit what's on display is deliberately provocative, distasteful and shocking, it's certainly not a comedy or romance and despite being mainly set 231 days after the initial outbreak with society finally beginning to rebuild itself with what dwindling numbers, resources and state control they have, it's not really an apocalyptic survival story. I guess the best way to describe Dead Genesis is a personal character drama dealing with the horrors of the war, the trauma of seeing loved ones die, and the continuing stress and unpleasantness of having to deal with a remaining undead threat, that was once someone's loved ones too.

A series of visceral, dark and harrowing sequential scenes charts the timeline of the world up to the 231 days later that's the start of the main narrative. It's highly stylised and evocative and blends both the highly personal narrative with the standard expansive Romero news-reel shots to tell us, what is in effect quite the usual zombie origin story. Panic, confusion, breakdown of government, of wider civilisation and lots of the dead up and at 'em. At day 96 things get mixed up. Seemingly, like with previous pandemics, with dwindling people to continue the spread, the problem reaches critical mass and the tide turns. New Media Corporation is set up to promote the idea the worst days are behind and begins to broadcast not just hope to the population of America, but wider debate on what to do with the remaining zombie menace.

Now, Dead Genesis, as well as being a personal character narrative also attempts to engage the viewer with the complex and moral issue of the ambiguity of war. With the establishment of local zombie hunting parties sweeping the countryside dispatching all the undead they can point their guns at, there's also an anti-hunting lobby promoting the idea we should stop the killing and remember who these people once were. It's a theme played with the whole film and I can get behind an exposition into the trauma experienced by those who have found themselves responsible for cleaning the whole mess up, but problem is, at no point during the film could I quite buy in to the notion why for a society desperately trying to rebuild, not killing the plethora of murderous rampaging flesh eaters still shuffling about, wasn't the right thing to do.

It's day 231 and Jillian Hurst (Emily Alatalo), a reporter for the New Media Corporation is sent to document one such mercenary band, the self proclaimed Dead Heads lead by Korvin (Colin Paradine). The plan is for her to spend a couple days with the rag tag assortment of civilians, interview them, film them in action and push something on the US that promotes their mission. Whilst the days don't go by without any action and the odd bit of death, she does complete her piece, she does return back to 'civilisation' and the world carries on as if none of the events she witnessed happened. As said, for Dead Genesis the zombies are really no longer a physical threat; the problem is the effect constant and continued death is having on the survivors' psyches. The journey Jillian goes on is one of discovery, with her entering the optimistic wide eyed innocent and coming out the war weary realist; and while I can see what it's all trying to do, and even respect the direction it's trying to tackle in what is a very repeated story line, it just doesn't quite pull it off.

The thing with character dramas is they've got to have really good and believable characters. Jillian's transformation comes across all a bit too easy and the horror and action she witnesses that enables it all, a bit too convenient. A dodgy bar with zombie prostitutes to be abused, a young boy being caught by a stray bullet; good scenes in themselves but somehow watered down and a bit obvious, when they're really just being used as aids to gnaw her naivety away. The film has her interview the varied angst ridden, self-recriminating, confused, lost and broken members of the gang, for back-story, and they're not all cliché but they all too often conform to a stereotype for convenience when the pressure rises. Also for a group of grizzled veterans that supposedly spend all their time killing and sleeping rough, they're all a little too well groomed and fresh faced.

The zombies are your straight Romero Western zombie trope. They shuffle about, groan and snarl and they go for the guts. They've used the bit from Romero / The Walking Dead that implies we're all infected and a bite isn't necessary for turning, but this was only shown once so I won't take it as gospel. They're reasonably well made up for a low budget affair and do the job, but the gore and blood effects that are fleetingly used are surprisingly shocking and effective, especially during the opening sequences. I also felt the use of these flashing gratuitous interrupts actually worked well as a contrast to Eveneshen's drab depressed portrayal of day to day existence.

It's well shot and directed, the score is moody and appropriate and the dialogue tight. The problem is it all feels a bit superficial and ponderous. Emily Alatalo as with the rest of the cast put in fine performances but her character as a naive little innocent just isn't all that tenable, nor is the notion a movement that wants to spare the zombies a mere seven months after they kill most the Earth's population would be able to get prime time coverage on the only world media channel. I also want to mention  the awful pixilation and strange compression artefacts to what would otherwise have been, I believe, quite the sharp picture as if I watching some dodgy zipped torrent rather than the original DVD. A nice attempt at something original with some memorable moments, it just doesn't quite hold together with derivative action scenes and a meandering character development that feels a bit laboured, 5/10.



  1. As a Canadian, I'd like to see this. As a zombie fan, I'm not so sure.

    1. It's funny, I just knew this film was Canadian before I even looked it up.

  2. Thanks for the review, well written and well thought out! A nice introspective and respectful critique on the film WITH actual reasons and explanations as to what you didn't like. I like that!
    A little side note though, this was written and shot a year or two before The Walking Dead was on TV, and far as I recall, the TV show had not even been announced yet. The whole bit about people turning into zombies without being bit comes directly from the Romero films :)
    - Reese

    1. Many thanks for the comments and you're right! I did know that but think my choice of words could have been better :)