As a fan of the horror genre, I am a fond follower of the Zombie apocalypse style of film. Throughout the years we, the audience, have been inundated with many films relating to the Zombie apocalypse. Classics such as Day of the Dead, Night of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead, as well as lesser received, yet equally admired, titles such as 28 Days Later and Zombieland, the list truly is endless but these are the titles that first spring to mind.
The Clay Brothers latest offering, State of Emergency is another such film.
The basic plot of the film is that an explosion occurs at a chemical facility near a place called Montgomery County, releasing toxic gases into the atmosphere. As the gases disperse, members of the community start to show abnormal signs of behaviour and soon become ravenous, zombie like mutants. The military is sent in and the area is sealed leaving survivors within the infected area trapped and awaiting rescue. Jim (Jay Hayden) is one such survivor and we follow his time line as he struggles to understand what is happening to him and how he can stay alive.
From the start of the film I was impressed. The ambience and feel had characteristics very similar to I Am Legend with very little by way of actual on-screen action, just a very mysterious, eerie silence cleverly amplified by the filmmakers use of sounds. This was one thing that was very noticeable about the film. The filmmakers had taken great care, and put in great effort, into creating the right sound for a given sequence and that kind of attention to detail really added to the quality of the film.
Although the first thirty minutes or so of the film were a little slow to get going I do feel that the progression of the story was smooth. Plot was divulged to the viewer by way of TV stations reporting on the accident and we were therefore unravelling the mystery of what had occurred in the same way as Jim.
Eventually Jim discovers other survivors Scott (Scott Lilly), his wife Julie (Kathryn Todd Norman) and a woman named Alex (Tori White) and decides to join them. Unusually for this type of film it focuses a lot more on character relationships at this point as opposed to action, effects and gore. A welcome change in my opinion.
This is a much more subtle, realistic style of zombie film. For the fans of more traditional zombie film practices head shots are still taken and blood is still splattered about however this is in moderation and definitely takes a back seat compared to atmosphere and despair.
The acting, although not Oscar worthy was acceptable. The cast worked well together, although on a couple of occasions they were let down by the filmmakers decision to use slow motion shots! Not one particular actor was any better or worse than the rest and luckily the narrative was such that it would have been a very bad actor that could have ruined it.
With regard to the effects, there were very little. The zombies (although mutants is possibly a better description) were very well designed and looked the part. The way in which they acted was also unlike traditional zombies, these merely stood motionless in the distance until the opportunity arose to advance toward their intended victim. There was no slow shuffling in this film, these took the 28 Days Later approach moving quickly and violently leading to a more hurried defence from the group.
My only true criticism of State of Emergency is that it never quite reaches a crescendo. The start is slow, builds up gradually and then flatlines until the final scene. I was left at the end feeling neither this nor that. I knew it was a reasonable film, I knew it had some qualities that were fresh and original and I knew it had been fairly well put together, but I didn’t feel as though I needed to watch it? It left nothing with me, not fear, not relief just the memory of watching it.
Overall, and this is a tricky summary, I would say State of Emergency is an average film. I can’t call it entertaining as that isn’t strictly true however I can’t say it was dire as I thought it well made with some good aspects to it. I think perhaps as a film you come across whilst flicking through the TV channels late one night and have no expectations of it will please, but as a film to buy or rent I would probably not recommend it.
State of Emergency is out on DVD 24th December 2012.
Director: Turner Clay
Stars: Jay Hayden, Andy Stahl, Tori White
Runtime: 90 mins