The Night Eats The World

Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is my favourite book of all time. Beyond its influence on horror (no I Am Legend, then no Night Of The Living Dead, no Stephen King, and nothing which either of those two examples have influenced) it remains a stone-cold classic, chilling, prescient, written with a surgeon’s precision and nerve, and it is filled with horror, humour, despair, and acceptance in defeat. It’s so rarely included on any best books of the 20th Century lists as to render those lists worthless. Aside from the many films, TV shows, and books which it has spawned, there have been a few direct or pseudo direct adaptations – The Last Man, The Omega Man, and Will Smith’s I Am Legend. None of those are worth watching more than once, and none come close to the majesty of Matheson’s original. Although it is completely unofficial and not mentioned anywhere as being an influence, The Night Eats The World is the best film version of Matheson’s story we have so far. Interestingly, the movie is in fact an adaptation of a different book by Pit Agarmen/Martin Page which I have not yet read but almost certainly borrows from Matheson.

Just to expand further on that point – both works see a man left seemingly alone in the world, surrounded by the undead. In I Am Legend they are vampires, and here they are zombies, but they are fairly interchangeable – all they want is to kill the lone survivor. The survivor in each spends his days barricading himself up, scavenging for food and supplies, keeping fit, and trying to not go insane. I Am Legend has a dog, The Night Eats The World has a cat. Both are character studies on the nature and notion of survival, on humanity, on loneliness, and while Matheson goes all in on the scientific side, here director Dominique Rocher is more concerned with philosophy, with tone, with cinema. Both works discuss whether the human is now useless – a soon to be extinct relic no longer required by nature and that the undead are the new normal. Our hero in the movie, Sam, discusses this as he descends into madness with a zombie named Alfred which he traps in a lift shaft. Those viewers looking for a straight horror movie may want to look elsewhere because while there are scares – effective ones – this is not supposed to be a visceral experience and instead is a rumination on existence when there seems to be no future – an idea so horrifying you’d struggle to name one worse.

Sam is a musician living in Paris. The film begins with him visiting an ex-girlfriend to pick up some of his recorded pieces of music. Unaware that she is having a monumental party in her apartment block he struggles with the pretentious people, the strangers, the crowds, and the sheer awkwardness of being there. With little to no dialogue or interaction we are put firmly in his shoes and know pretty much everything we need to know about him. A series of unfortunate events lead to Sam falling asleep in a locked room while the camera slowly zooms towards the door as familiar sounds of carnage erupt briefly. The next morning Sam wakes, finds the apartment empty but destroyed and filled with blood. He meets his zombified ex-girlfriend, locks himself away, and soon discovers that some cataclysmic event has unfolded leaving him abandoned an alone. Cultured viewers already know the zombie tropes, so the film doesn’t need to bore us with explanations or examples of how you’re turned, how to kill them, et cetera, and Sam simply resigns himself to the facts. He is alone, he needs food, he needs water, he needs shelter. The rest of the film is a showcase for these struggles, but more importantly what to do with his time and with his existence once these struggles have been overcome.

Sam is as uncomfortable with people as he is without. His descent towards insanity is gradual, shown in clever ways such as terrifying nightmares, possible hallucinations, definite hallucinations, and other subtle and not so subtle changes in his personality and actions. I’ve often wondered how I would cope under the same strains. Part of me thinks I would have the time of my life – free to do whatever I wanted and perfectly fine with never meeting another living soul again. Then again, that was before I had a family. And I’m essentially useless at DIY, cooking, farming, and anything else needed for surviving under these conditions. And most of the things I’d want to do would be rendered obsolete by the fact that electricity would be gone and a step outside would likely lead to certain death. Like many of its ilk, the film forces these questions and assumptions upon the viewer, though this is the most effective example I’ve seen since Dawn Of The Dead. 

The film is a slow-burner. There is almost no dialogue, and any violence and action when it comes is swift and brief. For me this worked, especially knowing Sam’s character and within the self-defined constrictions of the piece, but I understand that other viewers may get frustrated or even bored by the unfolding story. A few negative reviews have gone so far as calling it dull and a few have been angered by the open-ended conclusion. This isn’t a film which has a beginning and an end. This is a few months in the life of a man trapped and buried by insurmountable odds, and the conclusion is simply one more step – a step towards more of the same, or a step towards whatever is next is down to the viewer to assess. Again, you’ve asked what you would do if faced with the same situation – what would you do faced with the ending?

Anders Danielsen Lie is an up and coming star, with a number of notable releases and performances in this and recent years. The film belongs almost entirely to him and the director, who I can only assume worked closely on most aspects. His performance is gritty and quietly powerful, avoiding many of the usual hallmarks of the ‘guy goes mad’ story. Without becoming too extreme in any single direction, he runs the gamut of emotions and remains convincing throughout. Rocher is surely a name to watch now too, the latest director to wield a more subtle approach to terrifying audiences, and I will be excited to see what her comes up with next. His camera rarely jump-cuts or moves beyond a pedestrian pace and he is more interested in how desolate a room or a city can look than how bloody a person can be when being torn to shreds. The decision to make zombies almost completely silent is more potent than it sounds and leads to some of the more frightening encounters in many years. A strong soundtrack fills out some of the empty spaces and a few supporting characters add to the overall quality and effect. Although I admit to being predisposed to loving this, it is a highly recommended voyage into the horror of solitude. Train To Busan came from nowhere and thrilled audiences and rejuvenated a genre everyone was sick with – The Night Eats The World does the same, but in an entirely different style. In a year where horror saw a number of major financial and critical successes, and in a year where I read countless best movie of the year posts featuring every Superhero movie under the sun, The Night Eats The World is not being discussed by anyone but should be leapfrogging its way onto every series movie fan’s list.

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 7

EXT. A GRAVEYARD. DAY

RICK GRIMES: Lori, I just wanted to say… I’m sorry. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when all the zombies came, and now I’m here and you’re in this grave, dead.

CARL: Hi, dad. What you doing?

RICK GRIMES: Oh, hello son. I was just talking to your mother, and putting some flowers on her grave.

CARL: Uh, dad. What are you talking about? Mom’s not dead.

RICK GRIMES: Yes she is, remember? You were there.

CARL: No, that was some other lady. Look, mom’s over there.

RICK GRIMES: Huh? Where? Where!

CARL: Ha ha! Made you look!

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 6

EXT. PRISON. DAY

CARL: Look at the flowers, just look at the flowers!

SOPHIA: Why do you keep saying that?

CARL: Cos they’re so pretty. I mean, look at them!

SOPHIA: Carl, there aren’t very many others boys around anymore, and I was wondering. Would you like to be my boyfriend?

CARL: A pansy, a lovely tulip, and ooh look! A sweet pea! I think I’m going to sew this one into my one of a kind, Italian silk, moody, sunkist cravat. Sorry, what were you saying?

SOPHIA: Never mind.

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 5

INT. A SLAUGHTERHOUSE. DAY

A group of cannibals have tied up our heroes and are about to cut their throats.

GARETH: Any last words before, heh heh, dinner?

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Our father, who art in heaven…

GARETH: Oh please, ‘your God’ can’t help you now. Anyone else?

RED SHIRT: Please, I don’t want to die!

GARETH: How uninspiring – slice this guy’s throat already.

In a twelve minute scene, the Red Shirt is skinned alive, has his throat cut, is chopped into pieces, then Gareth dances the Macarena wearing Red Shirt’s skin.

RICK GRIMES: I promise I’m going to kill you.

GARETH: Oh really? If this guy’s God can’t kill me, how do you expect to?

A sudden THUNDERBOLT shoots from the SKY and torches GARETH and the other baddies. They are now dead.

OLD MAN HERSHEL: For ever and ever. Amen.

RICK GRIMES: Oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken me!

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 4

INT. AN ABANDONED WAREHOUSE. NIGHT

GLEN: So that’s the plan – I’ll sneak around the back and make a bit of a ruckus to distract the biters, then you come around from the other side and grab the big box of food, got it?

RICK GRIMES: Sure thing, skip. Lets – AGH! ARRGGH! Something’s biting me!

GLEN: It’s fine, your shirt just got caught on the sharp edge of a wooden crate

RICK GRIMES: No, I’ve been infected! Quick, hack off my arm before I become a zombie!

GLEN: No, you’re going to be – oh, alright then.

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 3

EXT. A FIELD INSIDE A PRISON. DAY

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Now listen up, everyone. The Lord has felt it necessary to wreak this plague upon us to shame us for our iniquities, but while we still live we need to prepare for the fut- Rick, what on Earth are you doing?

RICK GRIMES: Handstands.

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Han- why are you doing handstands? We’re having a serious discussion about farming, and irrigation, and such.

RICK GRIMES: Yeah I know but, handstands are much more fun. Look – weeeeee!

OLD MAN HERSHEL: Rick, that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever – it does look kinda neat though. Let me try. Weeeeeee!

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 2

EXT. A CREEPY WOOD. DAY

RICK GRIMES: Sigh. Another awful day in the zombie apocalypse. I wonder if anything interesting will happen today

MICHONNE: Stop right there, white boy, befo I chop off yo head!

RICK GRIMES: Oh, hello. Pleasant day we’re having, isn’t it.

MICHONNE: Da fuq you talkin’ bout? Can’t you see I got this big ass sword and these two jawless biters tied to me?

RICK GRIMES: Yes ma’am, you said it! Another glorious day in the zombie apocalypse. (Singing) ‘Sunshine, lollipops, and – zombies – everything that’s do-bee-do-bee-la-dee-da-dee-bee together!

MICHONNE: Dis bitch be cray…

The Walking Dead – Unpublished Screenplay 1

INT. A HOSPITAL WARD. DAY

RICK GRIMES (Waking up and yawning): Ahh, nothing like a nap to sooth those aching wounds. Wait a second, aching wounds? Where am I?

Shuffling sounds and moans come from outside the room

RICK GRIMES: Heh- hello? Is there anyone out there?

A zombie dressed in a police uniform shambles into the room

ZOMBIE SHANE: Rrrriiiiik!

RICK GRIMES: Oh no! It’s the Zombie Apocalypse!

ZOMBIE SHANE: Rrriiiiiik… iiwsssffffkkkknng Loorrrreeeeeee!

RICK GRIMES: What’s that? Little Coral is trapped down a well? Lets move!

Resident Evil

*Originally written in 2004

What had the potential to be one of the greatest zombie movies ever is let down by poor studio choices – mainly distancing itself as far from the games as possible. However, it remains a solid action movie if not the terrifying, emotional, complex horror it could have been. Admittedly, truly bringing the game to life for a two hour movie would be an extremely difficult process, and those making it could easily have made a mess, mangling the characters and story. It has always been my opinion that the games should be made into feature length TV movies or a high budget series. This way everything would fit in, and the budget would not need to be great. Of course this is just a pipe dream, and what we have is not as bad as some make out, with many good points.

The film starts with an outbreak at the Umbrella facility. Chaos ensues, and everyone appears to die. We then meet Alice, a woman inside an eerily empty mansion at night. She does not know who she is, and only has flashbacks of her life. Soon a group of marines enter, assuming she is a civilian, and along with the other survivors they try to work out what happened to the facility. They quickly find out that everyone has been turned into zombies by an evil computer program and worry about how to escape. Alice is not what she first appears to be, and neither are some other survivors.

The main problem with the film is that there is little fear created, and it is insanely watered down, with little gore. Fans of the series are used to high tension, jumps, threat and bloodshed, but this is simply not present here. Most of the marines are wiped out in a room which shoots high powered, cutting lasers, while only one is killed by a zombie. The Licker effects are okay, but there are no Hunters, Spiders or Tyrants. As well as this, most of the marines get small roles, look similar, and we fail to feel anything for them. Now the good points; Jovovich is very good in the role and there are a few decent twists, like the game. The way her mysterious past is revealed is clever and well-balanced alongside the escape plot. The star though is Michelle Rodriguez, giving an excellent, physical performance akin to Vasquez in Aliens. The action scenes are dealt with well, especially those involving the dogs, sets and lighting feel authentic for the series and the direction is solid. The film makes a good attempt at creating an original story, and it is left open for a sequel. Of course, us fans would have loved to see Wesker’s antics and our favourite STARS members being picked off. Maybe one day the games will make truly great movies, but why complain when we still have the games. Obviously a let down for fans, but still a pretty good action film.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Resident Evil!

Train To Busan

By now if you haven’t seen Train To Busan you’ve probably at least heard of it – breaking box office records and hearts at a furious pace. If indeed you haven’t seen it, you need to set aside a couple of hours, right now, and watch it – Train To Busan is the horror movie of the year and shows that there is still plenty of life left in the shambling undead genre providing you have the right people behind and in front of the camera.

Train To Busan gets right what many horror films get wrong – character. Too often character is sacrificed for plot, or worse, for kills. I love a good beheading or stabbing as much as the next horror fan, but sometimes we want more – more substance, more feeling and care. Cannon Fodder is all well and good, but the impact when someone we actually like, or actively dislike bites the dust is more powerful and the memory of their death and the associated emotional weight stays with us longer. There’s an old belief/saying/remark that I generally accept as containing a lot of truth – that the best horror films are often made by people who don’t make horror movies. While that’s not true across the board, it does sometimes take a person outside of the genre to bring something truly unique or horrifying to the butcher’s table. While Yeon Sang Ho was no stranger to dark material, it would be difficult to classify his previous work as strictly horror – his debut animated feature The King Of Pigs an unsettling look at violence, class, bullying, masculinity, and the follow up The Fake is an equally divisive, unflinching depiction of religion and abuse of power. Train To Busan was the director’s first Live Action movie, and although he filmed it alongside the animated prequel Seoul Station, it depicts a level of character building and command of genre usually reserved for the greatest directors.

At just under 2 hours, Train To Busan covers a lot of ground and gets off the ground within moments – we meet the ‘bit of a dick’ protagonist – a divorcee who apparently cares more for his job than his young daughter. As her Birthday present, she wants to visit her mother in Busan and her dad reluctantly agrees to take her. As they get on the train we pass by several other characters – a working class tough guy with his pregnant wife, a superior wealthy business men, estranged elderly sisters, and a school baseball team with their own interconnected dramas. Just as the train is setting off, a young, sick, injured woman collapses into one of the carriages and the fun begins as she decides to take a chomp out of one of the train workers. The way the ‘virus’ spreads here is more akin to 28 Days Later where a serious bite will result in death and ‘turning’ in a matter of seconds. Within minutes the train is in chaos, with factions being formed, people being slaughtered, some hiding, some fighting, some locking others away to their doom, all while the train scurries along to its final destination.

The pace with which the virus spreads is matched by the plot pacing and direction. There is rarely a moment to breath or relax without some new twist or threat emerging. The characters from different backgrounds all react to the carnage differently, yet all want to survive. The arguments here are of course reminiscent of NOTLD and Day Of The Dead with each voice and ego demanding to be heard and refusing to accept any other opinion as valid. There are a number of terrific set pieces, from scrolling beat-em up fight scenes through zombie filled carriages, to white knuckle tension filled moments as one group tries to lock out another, to the seeming safety of arriving at another station only to find it completely overrun too. Indeed, most of the excitement and scares of the film come from the pacing and the character driven plot, rather than jump-scares or gore.

While the film has its bloody moments, it isn’t overly gory or off-putting for newcomers. Seasoned horror fans will enjoy the action and invention, while new fans will likely be sucked in by the story which is frequently heartbreaking. The performances from top to bottom are great, something vital when you are relying so heavily on character, and most of the writing is on point too. You’ll have fun guessing who, if anyone, will make it to Busan, and the energetic nature of the film will have you thirsting for a rewatch. This is a highly entertaining, game-changing zombie film which reinvigorates a genre bloated by the procession of Walking Dead episodes and clones and frequently equals the heights that the best of the genre has to offer while encouraging those unfamiliar with these types of movies to get on board.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Train To Busan!