Remember that scene in “World War Z” where the zombies take on ant collectivist behavior and overwhelm the walls of Erezt Israel?
There’s such a moment in “Assimilate,” a C-grade thriller about “pod people” who are zombies in all but name. As the movie itself isn’t worth your trouble, let me save you the trouble and say that what I’m talking about is the unique way of upending the payoff in that remote farmhouse surrounded by zombies scenerio from “Night of the Living Dead,” and that it happens at the 55 minute mark.
It’s a lulu, and anybody planning their own zombie project should check it out and steal it. Because few are going to even bother Netflixing “Assimilate,” which again, isn’t a zombie movie.
We see the ants before the opening credits have ended. They’re swarming, sugar ant-sized critters getting on fruit and vegetables in the gardens of tiny Multon, Missouri.
That’s where two high school buds, Zach and Randy (Joel Courtney and Callum Worthy) live, a place they are desperate to escape. They document why on their new spy-cam Youtube series, “Welcome to Oblivion.”
It’s a place “too boring for crime,” but with these hidden lapel cameras, which the dorks turn up their lapels for (giving away the game) to score their “scoops,” they plan “to show the people of Multon the way they really are.”
They’ve barely started stirring up trouble when weird shrieks in the night and neighbors with strange bites start turning up. The bites magically heal, but those bitten take on the catatonic, humorless stare of pod people.
As the two gather video, they try to interest the deputy sheriff (Cam Gigandet) and the cute girl Zach (Or is it Randy?) fancies, Kayla (Andi Matichak).
One buys in, the other doesn’t. And as the shrieks spread, the conspiracy of local silence grows. Don’t fight it, “Assimilate” is the message of that silence.
Horror movies succeed or fail in a lot of ways, but the real Achilles heel of too many of them is in front of the camera. The actors don’t commit, don’t get across terror, panic, paranoia or rage.
That’s an issue here. As their family and friends are “replaced,” as new versions are spawned in the usual sci–fi/horror ways, frights are hard to come by, either on the screen or in the viewing of what’s on the screen. No character freaks out.
That would be the proper human reaction to witnessing something this horrific and extraordinary.
A little “Blair Witch” hand-held camera here, a manic chase by a nude replacement version of this or that member of the cast — probably the only “commitment” we sense in the performances — is all that livens up this seriously humdrum flick.
The dialogue is out of the “Lines you always hear in horror movies” book.
“What the hell WAS that?” “Either the entire town’s gone crazy, or WE have!” “You’re not my mom!”
None of it adds up to much. But if stream-it-you-must, feel free to jump ahead to that 55 minute mark. That’s a clever enough conceit to turn up in a better movie than “Assimilate.”
MPAA Rating: unrated, with violence, some nudity
Credits: Directed by John Murlowski, script by John Murlowski and Steven Palmer Peterson. A Gravitas Ventures release.
Running time: 1:33