Doomsday isn’t really a coherent movie — it’s more of a mishmash of homages to writer/director Neil Marshall‘s favorite B movies. That doesn’t make it bad at all, though; it ends up being quite entertaining in much the same way Grindhouse was (even though the latter is clearly the superior product). A year or two down the road, don’t be surprised if this one becomes a cult hit.
It’s weird, though: Marshall’s last film was The Descent, a story about a group of female spelunkers who find evil monsters in a cave. The flick went against the tide of its horror movie contemporaries by actually garnering good reviews — a whopping 84% on Rotten Tomatoes — but I personally found it to be boring and run-of-the-mill. Doomsday, on the other hand, is more creatively structured, more epic in scope, and more fun, and the few reviews its getting (it wasn’t screened early for critics) are bad. Maybe if Marshall’s next film is a critical hit, I’ll know to avoid it.
The foremost reason I liked Doomsday is because, despite blatantly cribbing off about eight other movies, it puts a creative spin on the whole “civilization-ending virus” plot. While most movies (think 28 Days Later or Dawn of the Dead) simply chronicle the outbreak of the virus, Doomsday takes place twenty-five years after it’s been contained.
It’s called the “Reaper” virus this time around, but it’s your typical human-turned-zombie deal. In April 2008, it breaks out in the U.K., but the British government is able to contain it in Scotland and completely quarantine the area, leaving the infected to die. Cut to 2032: a new outbreak occurs. The government sends a crack team led by Eden Sinclair (relative unknown Rhona Mitra) into the Scotland dead zone to find the laboratory of a doctor called Kane (Malcolm McDowell), who had been working on a cure before all contact was cut off.
Once inside Scotland, though, Eden and her team quickly realize that it’s not just full of corpses — an entire society of people who are immune to the virus has popped up, and apparently everybody’s completely freaking nuts. If there’s a moral of the film, it’s this: if you leave the people of Scotland without a government, within twenty-five years they will all turn into insane tattooed sadistic cannibals who gather in abandon concert venues to burn people alive. That’s either preposterously prejudicial…or just hilarious.
Once Eden and her team is inside the quarantine, the movie can be neatly broken up into three parts:
Part 1: Escape From New York. The good guys meet the crazy sadistic cannibal etc. people and try to avoid them in the ruins of a major city.
Part 2: Army of Darkness meets Gladiator. Somehow we’re suddenly in a medieval castle on the Scotland countryside,
and Eden is fighting an actual knight, with body armor and the whole nine yards, in an arena. Cool.
Part 3: The Road Warrior. A big car chase with the crazy tattooed cannibal etc. people. No, it’s not nearly as good as the car chase in The Road Warrior, but that’s clearly what it’s going for.
If this everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach sounds like fun to you, chances are you’ll like the movie. The editing gets way too confusing way too often, with a series of quick close-ups that frequently cause you to lose your bearings.
On the other hand, I admire the movie’s decision to have a female protagonist; Mitra brings to the role what Kate Beckinsale brought to the Underworld movies — the gun-toting badassery inside a teeny-tiny body — and she’s charismatic enough that I’d love to see her in more.
Sure it’s not the most original flick on the block, but when you consider the genre, it almost becomes downright innovative. When you think about the repetition and similarities of all the recent horror movies of the past few years, calling Doomsday out for paying homage to its forebears frankly becomes a futile pursuit.
Movie Grade: B
Great Britain, 2007. A deadly plague, known as the “Reaper Virus,” has broken out, killing hundreds of thousands in its wake. In desperation, the British Government evacuates as many survivors as it can out of the infected area, and then builds a wall, preventing the remainder from escaping. Thirty years later, with the wall still up and the victims all but forgotten, the virus breaks out again. The Government decides to send a crack team of operatives, led by Major Eden Sinclair, into the hot zone to investigate the possibility of a cure.