Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Vamp or Not? Hostile

This was a 2017 film by Mathieu Turi and I need to spoiler warn right here, before you’ve read too far. As you’ll know, if you are a regular reader at least, I post ‘Vamp or Not?’ articles either if someone has suggested something is a vampire movie (and its not clear) or if I watch a movie and think there is a skirt around/into the edges of the genre (or sometimes a fully-fledged, but not obvious, plunge). This often does involve spoilers and in this it will necessitate spoiling the very crux of the movie. The thing is, I don’t actually know if this movie will necessarily work as it should with the primary twist (which I did work out, to be fair) spoilt. The other thing is, I rather enjoyed this. So my advice is, if you haven’t seen the film yet, stop reading, bookmark this page, watch the film and then see if you agree with my eventual assessment…

Still here, or back again? Good, then let us begin.

end of the world as we know it...
So, we hear an off-screen gunshot, feet running and then the gun dropped in an off-road vehicle that is driven across the desert. We get scenes of a convoy of dead vehicles with a gloopy skeleton just for fun, rusted wrecked boats at the shore, a backdrop of a devastated city, with skeletal buildings and graffiti over the city limits sign that says “All Dead”. The driver is all covered up due to the desert conditions but when she pulls up at a disused gas station she unwraps her face, This is our primary character Juliette (Brittany Ashworth).

She is scavenging and the gas station has not revealed anything of worth. Then she hears movement in the ceiling space, along with a guttural noise. She scarpers pretty darn quick and, as she drives off, she radios base and tells them that she thinks there is one there. Her battery is low on the radio and, reminded to get back before dark, she takes a short cut. This leads her to a caravan. She approaches with caution. The owner is sat, his hand over his stomach. Forcing him to lift his hand, at gunpoint, we see he is holding his guts in where he has been clawed.

Brittany Ashworth as juliette
She asks where it is? He reveals he managed to lock it in the caravan and then she asks whether there is food in there, which he confirms. He implores her, between cannibals and reapers (so we have a name for the creatures of this feature) he would like mercy, but she won’t waste a bullet as she has so few. She suggests he remove his hand to die, or she’ll take him back with her. She goes in the caravan – we do not see the action but hear the fighting as the camera circles the caravan. She is successful, gets the food, but the man has died.

in the gallery
She gets back to the highway and we have seen her handling a picture of her and a man. She takes it from the sunshield and a gust of wind whips it out of her hand and the vehicle. She loses control and crashes, turning the vehicle over. The film suddenly flips to an art gallery where Juliette has gone, crashing the event, to shelter from rain and snag some food. She is spotted by gallery owner Jack (Grégory Fitoussi) and notes she knows little about Francis Bacon, who is being displayed. He tries to show her the beauty within his work.

blood on mouth
We cut back to the vehicle and she has broken her leg and is stuck in the desert with night falling. The film then chronicles her night in the vehicle with a reaper stalking the vehicle, inter-cut with her pre-apocalypse life. The creature we discover is nocturnal and scared of light. It is strong, despite being emaciated and twisted. Reapers clearly eat people, perhaps drink their blood – that isn’t clear – but it does appear to have fangs amongst its broken teeth. They also seem, on the surface, animalistic and certainly only make guttural sounds.

reaper in detail
The clues to the twist are all in Juliette’s earlier life. Jack falls for the woman but she is standoffish and, when he spots her doing a dodgy deal in a posh restraint, follows her home and discovers she is a junky. Eventually (and after she goes to him, after being beaten, and he kidnaps her to force her through cold turkey) they do build a relationship, marry and even get pregnant – but she loses the baby during childbirth, which puts a strain of the couple. An argument causes him to storm off and be caught in a terrorist gas attack, one of the few survivors. All this intersperse the full length of the film.

the reaper
And here we spoil things completely – if you didn’t heed my warning earlier, heed it now. In the past Jack was removed from the hospital without explanation. In the present the creature eventually gets to Juliette and, rather than attack (despite her having put a few bullets in it), it makes a gesture over her face as Jack used to. It is Jack. The survivors (I assume, rather than all the victims) of the chemical attack clearly became the reapers. How there are so many isn’t answered (there may have been many attacks, or maybe they passed on the condition), how the world fell is not addressed – the film keeps things really small in that sense.

the gesture
However, the creature was once Jack, it is a flesh/blood eater and it is sentient. We know the chemical burnt his throat and larynx (and did the same to the other survivors I assume). It has physically changed him, distorting his features, removing hair and he appears to have no genitals. In fact his limbs and fingers seem elongated also. His mind, however, is there enough to recognise Juliette, to doggedly try to get to her, to try and gesture that he is no threat (earlier he gets close and holds a hand up, which is clearly a gesture that the audience sees but she misses) and manages to communicate his identity in a way only she would understand. If the idea of these two finding each other seems kooky, well the idea might be overly sentimental but it is addressed in film.

survival movie
Is he a vampire, however? We have the photophobia, the eating of people and someone being turned into the monster (though we have no idea whether that was the intended reaction to the gas or an unforeseen effect). Plus, I like the film, so I’m claiming it for the genre. Vamp (though perhaps there is an argument for zompire). Whether the tension of her survival would work the same with the knowledge of the twist is another question?

The imdb page is here.

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