01/04/2010. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper
This 2009 zombie film from France does everything it does well but little that is original. Fans of the zombie sub-genre will get very much what they are expecting whether that is what they really want or not. Two lovers fight to survive in a world over-run but microbe-transformed zombies. Most of the photography is shot though a blue-gray filter to give a downbeat sensibility and a great deal of not-quite-believable stage blood gets dripped, sloshed, spattered, and sneezed.
David Morlet writes and directs this graphic horror tale with strong action sequences with immediacy. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
In the last two years the United States has been treated to a Swedish vampire film, a Norwegian zombie Nazi film, a Canadian zombie film, and now a French zombie film. The Swedes are out in the lead. These films are in subgenres of horror in which the United States has been the most prolific. I believe all of them have shown on the IFC cable station, which is doing a fine job seeking out interesting international horror films.
Of these four films I would say that the Swedish Let The Right One In and the Canadian Pontypool show us interesting and different takes on the old horror themes. The Norwegian DEAD SNOW gives us little different from what we have seen before and for the most part echoes American approaches to the zombie film. Still less is new in Mutants. Writer director David Morlet is able to create a good action scene and packs the film with them, but the style of the film is really better than the ideas.
One keeps seeing people barricaded against the onslaught of ravaging mindless zombies. We have people bitten, but hoping against hope they have not been infected, usually in vain. These are staple situations going back to Night Of The Living Dead, though much is borrowed also from 28 Days Later.
A runaway virus that, like rabies, turns people into mad animals anxious to viciously bite other humans has infected France about six months before the action of the film. Now the infected seem to outnumber the uninfected. Sonia (played by Hélène de Fougerolles), her lover Marco (Francis Renaud), and Perez (Marie-Sohna Conde) drive a commandeered ambulance looking for a military camp aptly called Noah. Noah seems to be their hope for survival.
After being on the road for a while and nearly being killed several times what is left of the main party takes refuge in a large disquieting empty building. When the zombies become attracted to the presence of humans than attack the building in force. The action is fast-- often a little too fast to follow. Characters are lost from the story and added to the story.
That story is drenched in syrupy blood and punctuated with bullets from large firearms. It is generally filmed in blue and grey tones that effectively drain the life out of the people. These are not unfamiliar touches. Sonia is the main focus for much of the film. She is both hero and victim. While she goes through the same trials as most of the other characters she continues to survive. She can be hurt, but seems unkillable and in that some of the tension of the film is lost. The issue is not will she survive until near the end of the film. It is will she be alive after the end. That takes some of the suspense out of the film.
Fans of zombie films may be a little sorry that so much of the film is familiar. This is a one viewing film. But for that one viewing is a polished work. I rate Mutants a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. The title Mutants is probably a misnomer. People infected may be victims, but they are not mutants in the usual sense. People are affected by the virus itself and not its change to their DNA which probably would not be the same from person to person.
Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 2010 Mark R. Leeper
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