Friday, March 9, 2018

Movie Review: Les Affames/Ravenous (2017)

Les Affames/Ravenous (2017) directed by Robin Aubert

A zombie apocalypse hits rural Quebec, where various groups of people roam around trying to survive. As the movie starts, things are already really bad. Two guys in a pickup truck are burning bodies of zombies they have killed. A woman drives into a small town, blares her radio, and machetes to death the one mindless screaming man that comes running her way. The four or five separate stories introduced at the beginning eventually merge. The full group hopes to make it to a well-supplied bunker where they can wait out the horror. If they can make it that far.

The story moves slowly at the beginning and the pace never picks up till the last ten or fifteen minutes. The movie makers go for a very quiet, slowly building atmosphere but the story shifts around too much between the separate stories. I found myself wondering, "Wait, what's going on now?" more than feeling, "Wait, how are they going to get out of this now?" The first question is all about sorting out the plot mechanics which doesn't contribute to the horror here. The second question builds up the tension and concern for the characters.

The human characters all speak French but they hardly ever speak at all, so viewers don't have to read too many subtitles. The actors do a good job shifting from dread to ennui to despair. The characters are sympathetic and almost always strive for self-sacrifice rather than self-service, which I liked. On the other hand, they were not particularly distinct or memorable. I felt bad for them but wasn't crushed when any particular character died. I wished the characters were more engaging.

The zombies are hardly decayed and could easily pass for human except for the shrieking at and chasing after the living, which they don't always do. The zombies make tall heaps of manufactured goods for unexplained reasons. The heaps are not particularly unsettling--the way the zombies stand quietly looking at them is a little unsettling. I appreciate that the film makers are trying to do something different with their zombies but the ultimate effect is not very effective. Except when they are attacking, the zombies are not particularly scary.

Slow story plus unengaging characters plus slightly enigmatic/slightly scary zombies equals a not recommended film. It wasn't terrible (cheesy or tacky or sexist or overly gory), so it would be two out of five stars.

As I publish, this movie is only available in America through Netflix streaming.

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