Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Rancid – review

Director: Alastair Orr

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

South African film Rancid (AKA Expiration) is an odd one. Possibly closer to zombie than vampire these fall easily into the zompire camp. Indeed the zombie word is used (once) and I did actually put it on expecting something from that genre. The use of blood and a mouth full of sharp teeth made me realise that I had put a vampire (or at least a zompire) film on.

The other thing I noticed was that I really rather enjoyed the film as I watched it, but even as I enjoyed the tense little zompire horror the plot was noticeably unravelling. There are some great whopping story holes and I am going to have to spoil the twist (or at least one of them) to explain why the holes are so blooming massive.

Justin Strydom as Le Roux
So four people are brought together to take part in a drug trial. They all have a medical reason to be there (beyond the very handsome payment for the trial); William Hunter (Brandon Auret) has alcohol problems, Jake Butler (Ryan Macquet) has had brain tumours, Samantha Foxx (Ingeborg Riedmaier) has chronic asthma and Dominic Black (Michael Thompson) is wheelchair bound. The Doctor, Le Roux (Justin Strydom), explains that they must all read and sign a disclaimer, hand over their personal items and take a sedative before being taken to a ward. The drug being trialled is Gentek B15.

awake and abandoned
When they awaken they are given very quick cognitive tests and then they are wheeled by armed and masked guards into an abandoned hospital. Hunter tries to break his bonds and is belted in the face with the butt of a gun. Soon they are alone, disorientated and each in possession of an item – Hunter his lighter, Butler his watch (this reveals that they have been out of it for 2 months), Foxx her inhaler and Black his glasses. Foxx finds that her piercings have been healed, Black can walk, Butler has lost the heavy scars at the back of his head and Hunter has lost a tattoo. However Foxx still has asthma – they deduce that non-genetic things have healed (so Black had lost the use of his legs, rather than being born with mobility issues, and so could now walk but still needs his glasses). They have no water.

In another part of the hospital a worker in hazard clothing goes to fix something. He is armed and aware that two of the B14 trialist are still there. One is now a creature and the other is a pregnant woman, Megan (Christien Le Roux), who lied on her declaration (presumably about her pregnancy). The worker is attacked by the creature who has sharp teeth and black eyes. Two guards are sent in to recover Megan (who steals the water). The attacked worker quickly turns into a creature.

finding the cube
So, they seem pretty darn resilient, can spread their infection, (it isn’t clear but likely that) they are undead and they seem very much like a faster end zombie. That is... apart from the sharp teeth (which the first of our new crew to turn, due to the procedure, shows us involves losing their teeth and rapidly growing new sharp ones) and the fact that they can smell and are attracted to blood. One interesting point was that one of the test subjects starts playing briefly with a Rubik's cube he found and then puts it down unsolved. Later, after he has turned, the cube is found, solved, just before he attacks. This would seem to refer to the vampire and the need to solve puzzles (a subset of the arithmomania sometimes associated with vampires).

Christien Le Roux as Megan
So, problems… Why wait until a new set of test subjects were in before retrieving Megan? Why not deal with the creature before then too – it makes no sense if they are trialling a new batch of drug to mix it up with the “anomalies” from previous tests? The creatures may well be dead (the drug is said to rot them from the inside out) but Megan clearly needs water (she comes out of hiding to grab the worker’s water flask). She’s been inside for two months we are told – what did she eat and drink? Indeed our new test subjects are left without water and they are being observed (initially) over four days (a human can last on average three days without water). When they find Megan no-one asks her for water or wonders where she might have got it from during her incarceration.

Indeed we don’t know what is doing this to them – heavy spoilers. We find out that the test subjects are clones – this is presumably the real reason why tattoos and scars vanish, rather than being down to the drug. Could it be the cloning process that is causing them to turn and not the drug? Was there even a drug or is it the cloning they're testing? Why is it treated like an infection? We see it can be spread in an attack but the hazmat suits and gas masks suggest something air-born. If they can clone someone (over a two month period it would seem) and pass the subjects’ memories on (and thus they don’t know they are clones) surely their technology is more advanced than the failed tests suggest?

eyes blackened
It’s a shame that a tense little film with good characterisations should be as holey as Swiss Cheese when looked at with the slightest scrutiny. I liked what they were doing but not how they ended up doing it – so intent on getting to a certain place they refused to think whether the route made sense. However, take your brain out and it is entertaining. 5 out of 10 for that entertainment factor but it has lost marks for the holes and is lucky it didn’t lose more.

The imdb page is here.

No comments: