The 2010 Norwegian film Dark Souls, subsequently re-released as Zombie Driller Killer no doubt to take advantage of new tidal wave of zombie affection, is a dark, macabre, brooding tight little budget horror competently made and acted with some delightful little scenes. It's also a rather hard one to review for as much as I respect what director and writers César Ducasse, Mathieu Peteul have put together it really does fail to hold up to any serious scrutiny in any way, with a narrative full of suspect decisions, and an explanation and ending that unravels just when it should be delivering.
I feel some clarity is needed. The driller killers(s - as we later discover) are a group of orange jump-suit Jason wannabes that have set siege to Oslo; jumping unsuspecting passers-by, drilling into their skulls and implanting something that leaves them, albeit after a small period of deadness, vegetative black bile spewing degenerates. These zombies of the piece are for the vast majority exactly this. Sickly with epileptic seizures, neurological disorientation and fast growing cancerous metastasis that's spreading through their central nervous system; the only dangers they present is someone slipping on their spewed bile or tripping over them as they lay lifeless and in the way.
There's none of the usual biting, chasing or gut ripping; the protagonist of the film is the driller killer and he's real, alive and a tangible target for both police and wannabe super sleuth. Johanna Ravn (Johanna Gustavsson) is victim number one and her gruesome (though off camera) end sets the narrative on its way not only for her sub-story focus that sees her slow macabre transformation, but also for her father, Morten Ravn (Morten Rudå), old and portly, single father, music teacher and unlikely hero of the hour. Not only faced with twenty-four hour care of a vegetative daughter who is constantly oozing black bile, he has also decided to take it upon himself to investigate the ever increasing number of attacks and track down the culprit.
There's a patch some one hour in, a five minute interruption where the vegetative rise from their beds and set upon the living, and it's good; I mean really good with tension, horror and an eerie unnatural atmosphere that Fulci would be proud of. Yet that's it. The first hour is the double investigative story, on Johanna and by Morten, and even the final twenty minutes when one thinks, with the zombies out of the closet so to speak, things are likely to get undead and spicy, it again slides back to Morten just running about an industrial factory from semi-zombie henchmen armed all armed with varyingly sized drills; obviously compensating for something. All this build up isn't bad per se; it's a tad meandering but fairly interesting in an x-files investigative drama kind of way. The problem is one of believability and I just never truly bought into the podgy cello teacher as entrepreneurial investigator, never mind swashbuckling hero. And it's not the only inconsistency I found in the story; from a random homeless man happening to know the origin story for the whole oil-based zombie death cult, Morten happening across the driller killers' lair, or the fact that despite the whole city being on lock-down because orange jump suit mask wearing maniacs were drilling all indiscriminately, they were able and quite happy to drive around in broad daylight without garnering any attention. Oh, and we're also supposed to buy into a totally incompetent police force… okay, this one's not so hard.
The driller killers are kind of zombies too though they're more chosen tier one zombies, and not the fetid oil oozing mindless tier two drones that make up their victims. All identically donned, they might be unselective in who they attack, but they're very focused on how. Under orders, control or necessity they jump a victim, drill into the cranium, suck something out then push something in, all for the 'old man' (Gustav-Adolf Hegh) who lives atop the factory rewarding them for their work with a sip of the old black stuff. The origin story, which we learn, conveniently from a chance encounter, is one of a deep oil well and drill (spot the clever parallel) and a mysterious evil let into the world, but beyond this I'll be fucked if I know what's going on. What they're extracting from people, what are they putting back in, why they're doing it, who the 'old man' really is and what his motives are? It's some ancient evil, something to do with hydrocarbons, life and oil and I think the total subjugation of mankind.
An interesting hour and a half, and whilst not convinced at all by zombie driller killer I've certainly had less celluloid fun. The investigative pacing was intriguing and Johanna's degenerative journey enthralling. Some choice decisions aside, introducing the zombies earlier, then seeing through their promise and I think Ducasse and Peteul could have produced that most rare of undead beasts, a budget zombie film that's interesting, original and intelligent. As it is though, zombie driller killer just makes too many wrong turns to off-set all it does get right - 5/10.