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dir Tod Williams
scr Stephen King, Adam Alleca
prd Michael Benaroya, Shara Kay, Richard Saperstein, Brian Witten
with John Cusack, Samuel L Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Owen Teague, Stacy Keach, Clark Sarullo, Ethan Andrew Casto, Anthony Reynolds, Erin Elizabeth Burns, Joshua Mikel, Catherine Dyer, Wilbur Fitzgerald
release US 8.Jul.16, UK 26.Aug.16
Hunting zombies: Jackson, Fuhrman and Cusack
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
There's an enjoyable B-movie vibe to this offbeat spin on the zombie genre. And since it's based on a Stephen King novel (and he cowrote the screenplay), the characters are much more complex than usual, giving the cast something to chomp into, as it were. So while it's very silly, it's also entertaining.
Clay (Cusack) flies home to Boston and calls his exwife and son (Sarullo and Casto), hoping to reconnect with them after years away. But as he makes his way through the airport, a screeching tone emits from everyone's mobile phones, turning them into homicidal maniacs. Clay runs, teaming up train driver Tom (Jackson) and neighbour Alice (Fuhrman) before they find a schoolmaster (Keach) and his star student (Teague) who have discovered some facts about these marauding undead. But Clay continues north, worried about his son.
Refreshingly avoiding the usual cliches, it's impossible to predict who will survive the mayhem. Characters enter and leave the story constantly, as Clay discovers new cohorts and loses others. A sojourn in a country tavern is funny and horrific, as is a meeting with a quirky couple (Reynolds and Burns) driving an ice cream van. To make things even odder, all of the characters are dreaming about a red-hooded man (Mikel) who is the demonic central figure in a comic book Clay draws.
All of this gives plenty of gristle for Cusack and Jackson to chew on, investing their characters with humour and determination, as well as a strong undercurrent of emotion. The people around them are more thinly drawn, but add witty touches to every scene with their own eccentricities. And everything feeds into the generally preposterous tone: if these people can hardly believe any of this is happening, neither do we.
Indeed, Williams' direction never quite grounds any of this in the realm of possibility. Especially since the story feels like the rant of an old man tired of seeing everyone around him always chattering on their phones, imagining that they are playing with their own mortality. But at least this adds the hint of a bigger idea. And the film is shot in a ramshackle style that's edgy and intriguing. The action sequences are incoherent (shot too closely and too shakily), but the colourful characters and rather bonkers plot are eerily involving.
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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