Movie Review: Zombies feed on France in “The Night Eats the World”

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Every zombie fan has a secret plan for surviving Apocalypse Undead. We’ve all seen “World War Z,” maybe taken mental notes during “Zombieland.”

Do you stockpile food, water and arms and head for the hills? Signal for fellow survivors so that you can band together? Steel yourself against the day a loved one/fellow survivor is bitten and must be dispatched, and there’s nobody to do it but you?

This is part of the appeal of the genre, a logical, intellectual exercise exploring what you might do on that day (fast approaching) when logic and intellect don’t apply or may not be enough to save you.

“The Night Eats the World” is a French zombie parable about a sensitive musician, Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie) who tries a more passive approach. He’ll hole up in his Paris apartment, carefully poll the neighbors to see who hasn’t survived, fill his larder and seal off the building and his floor in it.

He has a gun, but no intention of using it. He surveys the streets from his balcony, but has little intention of venturing out onto them. Can you wait them out? Surely the walking dead run out of brains to dine on and starve, die of thirst or migrate in search of fresh meat. At some point, it’s got to happen, right?

Wasn’t there a “Zombieland” rule about “Forget logic, these are zombies,” or some such? No man is an island, even on Ile Saint Louis in the middle of a zombie takeover.

Dominique Rocher, making his feature film-directing debut, adapted a Pit Agarmen novel with the simplest of “28 Days Later” set-ups. Sam goes to his old apartment where his ex (Sigrid Bouaziz) is throwing a swinging party with the French dude she ditched him for.  All he cares about are his “tapes,” his music.

He works through the crowd, locks himself in the office where he kept the tapes and passes out, drunk. His priority was his music.

He awakens in the aftermath of wholesale slaughter. The ex is among the undead. He’s got to make his way to his new place, implement some sort of strategy for survival and ride this debacle out.

He’s got his tunes, his drum kit and batteries for his playback and recording gear. He can make percussive music with every implement in the house, strictly for his own amusement.

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Three telling actions give away his state of mind. The first thing he does on getting ome is hand-scrub his floors. The second? Carry out his door-to-door (sometimes chopping through the floor) survey. He sees suicides, and he deals with every body — first searching it for a phone. He hears final, tearful voice mails, a veritable 9/11 cell-phone account of the dead’s final moments.

And he would rather leave the mute, manic zombie neighbor (Denis Lavant) locked in the old fashioned grill-door elevator than kill him.

This is a parable about not really getting involved. Sam doesn’t talk to himself (What American film school screenwriter could have resisted this crutch?), doesn’t ponder “a cure” and doesn’t seek out fellow survivors. Agoraphobia sets in, pretty much.

Will his music — the drums draw legions of sprinting zombies his way — his solitude and survivalist paranoia be enough? Is that really living?

While the setting is striking, a Paris “28 Days Later/Rammbock/I Am Legend” dark and silent after the end of civilization, genre fans may find this passive narrative slow and largely devoid of action, despite the odd burst of menace. Because it is. Slow.

And “slow” and “quiet” are not the equivalent of “dark” and “deep,” though “Eats the World” does leave one with a little to, um, chew on.

There is almost no pathos here, nothing that touches us with the heartbreaking dilemma of loss or the “need” to shoot an infected loved-one. Our “hero” never brings that to his performance, and the script is largely heartless as well. Go to Schwarzenegger’s “Maggie” for that.

There’s not a humorous moment in it, perhaps because the metaphoric dissolution of society seems more serious, a “Zombieland” that’s closer than ever.

There’s just Sam, despairing that “Dead is the new norm now” to the undead doctor/neighbor in the elevator. “I’m the one who’s not normal.” The only decision left is whether to conform to the norm, or not.

2stars1

 

MPAA Rating: TV-14, bloody horror violence, shootings

Cast: Anders Danielsen LieGolshifteh Farahani, Denis Lavant

Credits:Directed by Dominique Rocher , script by  Jérémie Guez , Guillaume LeMans, Dominique Rocher, based on Pit Agarmen. A Blue Fox release.

Running Time: 1:29

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