Monday, 19 October 2009

Autumn Seasoned Zombies

Autumn
(2009/Canada)

‘‘We have no future. Our past is meaningless’’


It’s Autumn, the leaves are falling to the ground, but so too are the people !. An epidemic hits mankind without warning. A viral postman delivering its packages of death, stamping an indelible mark upon those susceptible. Its visible toll, blood coughed up from a congested thorax invaded by its invisible parasitic host. Unseen, uninvited, and unilaterally devastating in its deliverance of death.
The streets are littered with dead bodies, shops and homes are open coffins for the deceased. Those uninfected huddle together in groups, like homeless people seeking shelter from the elements. Solace is taken in the suffering of others bereft of the comforts taken away from them in a weapon less war. There is no electricity, no commonplace everyday commodities, only a confused state of union.
Dexter Fletcher stars as Michael, a school teacher who watched in sheer horror as his classroom students convulsed before him, with him helpless to save them. He is now one of the few rational individuals amongst the growing mass of paranoia, tangibly festering throughout his fellow survivors. The inner compunction of man to self destruct is all too evident, and Michael knows he has to get out of town with anyone he can trust and rely upon who is willing to go with him.
A couple of days after the living drop dead they rise up again, awakened yet unaware, walking but without purpose. They stagger around, oblivious to their surroundings. Dead to the world, like junkies tripping in a world only they can comprehend. Initially they pose no threat to the living. The greatest posed threat now is that of the reanimated carriers harbouring disease and decay. Their rotting flesh decomposing into the atmosphere, swept along by the wind in the air that is inhaled by all those still breathing !.

As arguments rear, and an hierarchy is not far from establishing itself amongst the unorganised people, Michael and four others separate off from the group and drive off in search of a safer haven. The small band soon becomes a group of three, leaving Michael with Emma and Carl to fend for themselves away from the conflicting group back in town. They come upon an isolated farm house and decide it is a good place to hold up in. A place to take stock of events and formulate a plan of survival. A residence that has a generator for power, and the amenities to enable them to self sustain beyond the regular tinned supplies. Winter is coming, and the cold hard reality of what has happened to the world hits them. The dead outnumber the living and just like themselves they are now showing signs of survival instincts. Their instincts seem to be returning, and the shambling stumbling steps are becoming progressively more purposeful. The three companions soon recognise that it is not just the impending elements of the cold that they need to keep out, but the chilling realisation that these risen corpses are now the living dead !.
Faithfully following the David Moody book Autumn may well be the most realistic interpretation of what a Zombie would be like in its inceptive form. A reanimated husk of a being no longer self aware of its existence. No more than a bumbling exterior shell without a soul. An interesting premise, yet ultimately unrewarding for the traditionalist Zombie loving film fan raised on Romero, and feasting on Fulci intestinal film fortitude !. The theme here then with Autumn is most definitely off kilter as far as the gore and chunk blowing goes. It is, however, an intelligent piece of story telling in this highly over saturated genre. What lets it down more, for any self professing Zombie gore follower, is the real lack of obvious budget and its repetitive sequences that play out with unforgiving annoyance. To view a set up twice from perhaps different angle is one thing but to show the same driving scene layout on four occasions is really aggravating to patrons laying down their hard earned cash to be entertained.

Where Autumn picks up plus points is in its attention to make up, which for Zombie effects is well done and not skimped upon even for the back ground players. The air of global doom and gloom is a realistic one as the every day resources we all take for granted are here laid to waste. The protagonists are truly outnumbered, and have to contend with more than just a physical threat.
The performance of Dexter Fletcher is head and shoulders above anyone else in the cast. He gives a professional and consummate recital that adds a believable quality to proceedings. His characterisation of Michael is the best reason to invest your time in the film.
If you are looking for visceral entertainment then Autumn is not the Zombie fest that you are doubtlessly used to. It is a sombre interpretation of a world rendered impotent by a long overdue assault by nature against its rapacious inhabitants, man !. In an ironic twist of events it is its very same inhabitants that rise up once more, like puppets of nature, to reap from its remaining living counterparts that which has been ravaged for so long, with unrepentant extreme prejudice.
For those seeking something different from the plethora of Zombie films, Autumn is a journal for the minor league inquisitive, and those with a want to expand upon their incursions into bold film making. Rewarding enough for those seeking a story to screen nigh on prose perfect visual narrative, but all too benign a prospect for the masses who drool over the mighty entrails strewn across the screen gone before.

David Carradine makes for a creditable eccentric cameo in the movie, locking himself away from the outside world where the Zombies roam, only to paradoxically seal himself in with his mom, as he affectionately refers to her, who is past her live by date and doing a turn on The Exorcist (1973) Regan's character that will turn a few heads for sure !. As a tribute to one of his final on screen performances David Carradine, even in such a low budget performance, shows the star quality that kept him in the movies as a top star for such a very welcome duration.
Conclusively, just as the Zombies in the movie are referred to as Walkers, this is a plodding production that although creditable in its intelligent narrative is too heavy handed to garner any great box office. This Autumn sadly Falls short.


Footnote: Big dues to Mr. Steve Genier, of Cinema Nocturna, for his boundless enthusiasm and contribution to the production of Autumn. Steve is amongst the end credits as Videographer Behind The Scenes. Congratulations Steve for fulfilling one of lifes dream assignments.

Review Paul Cooke

Autumn (2009)
Director Steven Rumbelow
With Dexter Fletcher, Dickon Tolson, Lana Kamenov,
Anton Brajek & David Carradine

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