Trying to forget someone you loved is like trying to remember someone that you never knew!
Ever since childhood I have had a fascination with the zombie genre across various platforms. Ever since my brother gave me the first Resident Evil game back in 1996, I had been very keen on the subject and throughout the subsequent 18 years there have been many films on the subject.
The genre has been far from devoid of shockingly poor films though, with the most famous example of this being the Resident Evil series, a series of five (soon to be six) films that gradually get worse and worse as they go on. Infact, zombie movies in general do tend to be very poor, with very few exceptions.
The early George A. Romero films, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead were both excellent, as were their remakes, and although technically not zombies, I have thoroughly enjoyed 28 Days Later and the first two REC films, both of which are very similar to zombie films.
So in a genre that rarely produces a good film, where does Exit Humanity stand? It was described in the trailer as “this is not a movie, but a piece of cinema,” Exit Humanity makes a bold promise about what it is about to deliver and as far as I am concerned, it certainly delivers on that.
Not theatrically released in the UK, or pretty much anywhere else for that matter, you’d be forgiven for having never heard of “Exit Humanity,” even as an avid zombie film fan I hadn’t heard of it until nearly two years after it’s release. Despite a trailer that revealed pretty much all of how the first hour or so of the film went, I was certainly intrigued by a film that looked exceptionally well made and set in a time period where horror films rarely go, just after the American Civil War.
With a near enough completely unknown cast, Exit Humanity is certainly one of those films that you will love or hate, and for me it is very much in the former of the two options. It’s different from any other zombie film
Edward Young (Mark Gibson) returned to his family following the American Civil War and had settled down to a normal life, however, upon a return from a hunting trip, his family has disappeared and the area is infested with zombies. Eventually finding his deceased wife and son, Young plunges into a deep depression and is only denied suicide by a malfunctioning gun.
Knowing he can’t stay in his home anymore, Young ventures out and soon discovers Isaac (Adam Seybold). Although initially hostile, Isaac soon calls upon Young to help him retrieve his sister (Jordan Hayes), who has been kidnapped by an insane army general (Bill Moseley).
As they find themselves being hunted by both the living and the dead, Young is continually struggling to come to terms with the new world and slowly loses his grip on reality and sanity, attempting suicide on numerous occasions. The eeriness of his feelings comes out with the haunting quote “If this is the humanity that is left then I need an exit!”
So what makes this film great?
Divided into chapters, this “piece of cinema” has many fascinating sub/mini-sections, including one where Young captures one of his infected neighbours and tests what they are capable of via various experiments. Remember that this is set several hundred years ago and therefore restraints had to be applied with virtually no safety precautions, and even when doing his test Young is still visibly terrified of his neighbour.
Exit Humanity only has nine characters that get decent screen time, but each has an excellent level of character development, ranging from Young and Isaac, to a doctor who questions his own faith in medicine and science as he can’t figure out what is happening or how to stop it. There isn’t a single weak character in the film, and you even care somewhat for the antagonists.
Some of the interesting subplots include the relationship between the general and his doctor. The general expects the doctor to find out how to control the zombie infection by purposefully forcing a prisoner’s arm into hole in a wall of a room full of zombies, and the doctor is not only very uncomfortable with this method, but is also faced with losing his understanding of science, openly admitting that he doesn’t know what is happening or why.
Presented with a mix of live action and animation, Exit Humanity is visually stunning, and whilst the action is little and far between, I have never seen a horror film with as much character development, and Young’s slide into insanity is a fascinating journey, no more so than when an early suicide attempt fails and he realises that he is forced do with what he has.
The soundtrack and settings almost act as individual characters, with haunting melodies played on banjos accompanying the characters through their journey amongst sweeping landscapes.Wide open spaces may not fill you with dread, but certainly bring you into the main character’s feelings of isolation, especially early on the film before he meets Isaac.
Reviews have generally been mixed throughout the history of the film, however, the comments from those who have viewed it and reviewed it negatively seem to revolve around the theme of there being long spells between story advancement, but I personally would much rather have characters built to the level where you can what happens to them. Too many films from the zombie genre have too many characters that you don’t even know the names of, let alone care about whether the character lives or dies.
Zombie films could learn a lot from this movie. It is an exceptionally intelligent film that doesn’t treat it’s audience like they are gore-obsessed morons. Too many zombie films are just obsessed with showing hordes and hordes of people getting bitten and/or dying on a regular basis, and I’ll be honest, I have grown very tired of the genre in recent years, however, this film is a cut above not only most zombie films, but most horror films.
In one sense this is a typical zombie film, in other words characters get bitten, die and then come back, but this stands out in a genre where most characters aren’t even named before they die (yes, I’m looking at you Resident Evil). At just shy of two hours long, you feel like you’ve made a genuine connection with the characters that are alive in the film
It has characters that you care about, a very clever way of presenting itself and introduces ideas that other horror films don’t even touch on, and even hints that the whole zombie genre started in this time period (if they were all linked and linear of course), although that does lead me onto the only negative part of this whole review.
My ONE criticism of the film is the scene where it is revealed how this zombie infection started. Sometimes it’s nice not to know where it all started and I feel that this film would have been a lot better without the section of the film, especially when it turns out that the actual source is a bit ridiculous, which it is in this film. I can’t go into it fully without actually spoiling what actually causes the outbreak, but if you watch the film, you will release just how needless it was.
As I said earlier in this review, this is one of those films where there is no in-between, you either love or hate it, I am very much in the love it camp.