Monday, May 1, 2017

Been There, Become That

If IMDB is to be believed, until today's feature, Denmark has apparently never produced an apocalyptic zombie horror film. 

You always remember your first.
Quick Plot: A beautiful suburb in Denmark is enjoying a sunny neighborhood barbecue when a few residents seem to get sick. As news reports slowly filter in and armed soldiers in Hazmat suits show up, it becomes clear (to the audience, who has seen this story told before) that the dead are rising, biting, and taking charge. 

Our focus lies primarily on a happy-enough family that includes the calm Dino, more worried Pernille, teenage son Gustav, and young daughter Maj. Before long, their house gets a tad more crowded with a few neighbors, all now quarantined in their once-happy suburb and trying to survive on limited rations and even more limited information.

In 2017, all horror fans should know the general rule when it comes to making a zombie movie: either bring something incredibly fresh or new to it (The Rezort, Deadgirl) or make it damn good (The Horde). On the first front, What We Become fails. The entire film could almost be summed up as a slow motion adaptation of the opening scene of Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake. The audience knows the situation well before the characters figure it out, and because they're regular people, they don't necessarily handle it with any ingenuity or impressive skill. 

That being said, writer/director Bo Mikkelsen can certainly make a good movie. His cast is strong, particularly young Benjamin Engell as the quickly-growing-up teenager. With its upper middle class suburban landscape, the film looks positively stunning, and the makeup and zombie design has a slightly unique take that helps to differentiate it from, well, the hundreds of it.

Aaaaand, that's where I have to say, am I really watching the exact same film I've seen time and time again? That this is Denmark's first zombie film is impressive, because hey! It's GOOD. But not great, and certainly not unique. Maybe my standards are too high, but in a world where there are as many GOOD zombie movies as there are good Russian figure skaters, it just doesn't seem like enough.

High Points
As the aforementioned 2004's Dawn of the Dead reminded us, there is always something brilliantly incongruous about flesh-eating ghouls ravaging a sunny and green suburb. Mikkelsen and his director of photography Adam Philp do wonders with presenting the film's setting in such a beautiful light, making its slow destruction that much more effective

Low Points
Didn't I JUST finish a rant about the "peekaboo of the ending" teaser trick more and more horror movies have been using as of late to open their film? Why, why, WHYYYYYYYY would you spoil a major element of your film's last act in its first scene? It does absolutely NOTHING for your movie, other than remind me, the entire film, that this is going to happen, and therefore, I shouldn't be too invested in the fate of certain characters when the film has already told it to me

Lessons Learned
In an undead situation, never get too attached to a bunny, no matter how cute its floppy little ears may be

Danish teenagers enjoy smoking, drinking, and listening to music (or so they say when trying to impress hot new girls next door)

In a pickle, a box of fireworks can be life-saving

Look, I'm not saying don't watch What We Become. If you're in the mood for a sharp little early stages zombie flick, it's certainly one of the better ones at hand. I was immediately soured on it from that teaser-style opening, but that's been a very strong, very recent thorn in my side and I'll fully admit it may have led me to be harder on this movie than needed. That being said, I wouldn't be surprised if I completely forget about this movie several months down the line because to someone who watches this kind of movie weekly, there's just nothing that special about it. 

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