Friday, January 09, 2009

Edges of Darkness – review

posterDirected by: Blaine Cade & Jason Horton

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers
Premiering on UK TV recently, this is a low budget movie that is yet another zombie apocalypse film and… you know what, I was going to try and lead you down the garden path with this for a little bit but, despite being a no budgeter, sometimes a film comes along and smack, right in the kisser. It is kind of a portmanteau film, in that it is made up of three separate (and yet weirdly connected) stories that are less distinct chapters and more interwoven vignettes as the film slips backwards and forwards between our protagonists.

Xavier Jones as MarcusI should tell you about our non-vampire stories first. We have the story of Heather (Michelle Rose) who rescues a boy, Marcus (Xavier Jones), and his mother, Shamika (Kelly Murray), from the zombie hordes only to find herself drawn into protecting him from murderous priests. You see he is the antichrist, though he has not come to bring the apocalypse rather he is there to save the world. The priests are trying to allow the cleansing (zombie hordes) to continue as this is God’s new flood. This is our more action/gore story but it has an interesting philosophical premise.

draining energy from a nest of miceThen we have the tale of Dean (Jay Costello) and Dana (Alisha Gaddis), a husband and wife. He is obsessed with writing a story – and this is where the film’s stories come together as his story seems to be that of the other survivors – to the point of ignoring his wife. The interaction or lack of it was really interesting with this one, almost a survivor’s insanity. However, with the electricity generator down, he discovers a new computer chip that he had (pre-apocalypse) been waiting for in previously unopened post. The chip is organic and seeks out new power sources, a cactus and then mice are drained of energy but then there are other organic energy sources in the apartment… The weakest premise but in some respects it was a machine, energy vampire.

We are concerned with the real vampires however and they are Stanley (Alonzo F Jones) and his wife Stellie (Shamika Ann Franklin). When we see them he has just entered their apartment and is concerned because the door was not locked and the window has not been boarded – though Stellie reminds him they are on the second floor. She asks if he got it and he has, it is in the trunk of the car. She is starving but he says they will have to wait until the sun goes down as there are zombies all over the car.

it is a girlBefore the sun goes down they hear screaming and see a woman, in an apartment over the way, killed by zombies that breached her defences. He seems upset but Stellie reminds him that that he wasn’t to know she was over there. Stanley brings it in and it is a girl, Natalie (Annemarie Pazmino), who is bound and gagged. He explains that he found her at Frankie’s but found no sign of Frankie, perhaps the zombies got him. Stellie wants a taste and starts to feed (note we never see fangs) but Stanley pulls her off as they must preserve the girl.

drawing bloodHe forces the girl to wash and get clean clothes on. He then comes at her with a needle, explaining there are more painful ways to draw blood. He tells her that it is a symbiotic relationship. She asks if he is going to kill her and he tells her that it is not a question of her dying, but how comfortable she wishes to be as she lives. When they drink the blood, however, it tastes wrong. It smells sweet, as does she, but tastes sour. Stanley wonders if it is down to her diet – who knows what she has been subsisting on.

offered to StellieBe that as it may, he decides he should find another survivor, preferably male (he has already appeared somewhat squeamish around her when he thought Natalie was having her period). He could breed them and feed off the male. He leaves the flat for a futile search for another living human. There is a poignant moment when he laments that “it was supposed to be our world.” In the meantime Natalie and Stellie seem to have bonded and Natalie actively offers the vampire her blood.

What is Natalie, by this shot - barking madBy the time Stanley returns Stellie can barely move. Stanley is weak himself and Natalie punches him out and then forces him to drink her blood as well, depriving him of his strength altogether. So the question becomes, what is she? The film doesn’t tell us – purposefully – but what we discover is that she is a creature who needs to be bled to live and her blood is clearly a poison to vampires. She could just bleed herself but she has created a new kind of symbiotic relationship as she doesn’t wish to be lonely through the apocalypse. The question is, of course, can the vampires escape?

Lore wise we get little else. Religious icons are not an issue, indeed Stellie mentions not taking the Lord’s name in vain in a reverant way. Given God is responsible for the zombie apocalypse this turn around works in a cynical way. Sunlight isn’t actually an issue for the vampires. There is a box, with something in it. What that might be we do not know, there are hints of it having something in respect of a lost family but Stanley and Stellie don’t talk about it. There was a degree of 'Pulp Fiction and briefcases' to it, a tantalising secret the answer to which we’ll never discover.

Alonzo F Jones as StanleyThe reason this film struck me, however, was within the excellent performances and the brilliant and believable dialogue. Filmmakers take note, you don’t need the greatest budget in the world but you do need a film that follows its own internal logic, which has interesting story points, has natural sounding dialogue and, preferably, has actors who can deliver said dialogue. This did. Special mention to Alonzo F Jones who, with the correct career choices, has a glittering future ahead of him – if this performance is anything to go by.

zombiesCertainly the best vampire and zombie plague flick I think I have seen – though it wasn’t quite a ‘V vs. Z’ – and by concentrating on the survivors the filmmakers made the zombie aspect more interesting. I am scoring this, however, as I would a portmanteau and so the score is for the vampire section of the film only, which was, I thought, the strongest section in terms of writing, dialogue, story and performance. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

No comments: