Movie night again. This time, the film was sold to me as ‘on a list of underrated horror films’. It certainly was OK for a very low budget film but I imagine it’s only ‘underrated’ because it had a very limited release and therefore, not much attention. Only a couple of reviews. But I think they’re good. Let’s get into it.
The only three characters that you’re going to see for the majority of the film are the… OK so they aren’t actually rewarded with last names so I’m going to call them the ‘Every’ family after all the other families from a horror/psychological thriller.
So, this family is slumming it ‘The Divide’ style meaning they’ve locked themselves away in a nuclear bunker. But this isn’t a ‘nuclear war’ film but an ‘outbreak’ film and we don’t find out what kind of outbreak until the end but since they’re hiding and there is a consistent reference to ‘Breathers’, it is assumed that they’re hiding from ‘zombie’ type creatures. That would be the assumption. Keep that in mind. By the way, spoilers are ahead but this does get my recommendation so if you don’t want to know what happens, find it and watch it. I don’t blame you if you think it’s a bit generic but stick with it, the ending is worth it.
Usually what happens in these kinds of films is because they’re all in such close quarters for the majority of the film, it’s all about the characters and depending on the number of characters, that can be either a good thing or a bad thing. There are varying degrees of quality in these kinds of films. If you’ve got a talented enough actor, you can have one person carry a lot of the film such as Will Smith in ‘I am Legend’ or (arguably) John Cusack in ‘1408’.
What about these characters?
There’s the mother, Claire (Andrea Riseborough), father, Ray (Alexander Skarsgard) and their nine year old daughter, Zoe (Emily Alyn Lind). Claire seems to be the most headstrong, Ray seems to be the most preoccupied with keeping Zoe happy and Zoe is a liability, just like all children are in universes like this.
Of course the whole film is a series of unfortunate events and fuck ups that lead to the grand finale which will see our protagonists face up against a horde of the ‘zombies’. That is the assumption. Again, keep that in mind.
They’ve been underground for 301 days when the film starts. 301 days underground where the only glimpse of the outside world that they see comes through the barely visible vent in the ceiling. Why a fallout shelter would have a vent? I don’t know. But the point is that they’ve managed to hold onto their sanity after almost a full year underground with virtually nothing to do. I know I couldn’t cope without the internet.
The first thing that goes wrong is that they realise that a rat is in the shelter. How did it get into a place that is supposed to be impenetrable? That was a question. Probably through the vent. The rat starts eating all the food meaning the family have to lower their rations. At this point, I’m wondering what their long term plan is. We learn later on through flashbacks that they just knew where it was as the military were firebombing their hometown to exterminate the infection. What will they do when they run out of food? They need somewhere to go.
Claire kills the rat, but Ray accidentally sets a fire which causes smoke and ash to billow outside and reveal their position. Both parents decide it would be a great idea to go outside with what we think are horrible creatures that are the result of a virus and leave the child inside and unattended. What happens if both of them are killed? Who’s going to look after the kid? She’ll probably learn to become independent and a badass action girl because children aren’t allowed to die in these kinds of films.
Shit goes down fairly quickly and the ‘Breathers’ discover their hideout. The next thing that always happens is in anything involving a family, the father has to be the one to die. The mother can never die. If the mother is dead, she died offscreen before the events of the film. In the scene where we think Ray dies, they need to escape the shelter after the Breather’s break in and so they have to get out through the vent. Claire squeezes through and grabs Zoe but Ray is too big to get through and decides to heroically stay behind and delay the Breathers.
Now comes a twist to make M. Night Shyamalan proud.
We see through flashbacks that the virus is airborne and the whole family is infected. The ‘Breathers’ are not monsters but the US army and are so named after the sound of their gas masks which they wear so they are not exposed to the airborne virus.
So the only answer left is ‘how does the virus affect people’. It seems that when they lose control, they turn into the creatures from ‘I am Legend’. They freak out and kill people which is why they are trying to stay calm throughout the whole movie. Whilst I will admit that I wasn’t expecting this twist, one of my predictions did come true. Ray does die. He’s gunned down by a soldier who I think is then killed by Claire. The only difference is that when they calm down, they go back to normal.
In the end, Claire and Zoe find a group of survivors who live in the sewer and it looks like somewhat of a happy ending.
Interestingly, this film was a feature length debut for The Duffer Brothers who went on to create and have everything to do with ‘Stranger Things’ which is one of those things that everyone raves about and I haven’t gotten into. Presumably once that show started getting a lot of attention, this film started getting attention as well.
This was a quick one, but I do recommend this film. It’s pretty good.
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