Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Virus-cum-zombies is back: Bo Mikkelsen's classy but derivative WHAT WE BECOME

Here we go again. Though it always seems, while watching a zombie movie, that no one on screen, or anywhere in the world for that matter, has ever before witnessed a movie or TV show about zombies. (Of course not, yet a new one debuts almost weekly.) So here we are getting yet another genre movie about a sudden out-of-nowhere virus wreaking havoc on a town and turning its citizens into -- wait: are you ready for this? -- flesh-eating zombies. Omigod, what an unusual premise! Still, there is something different about WHAT WE BECOME, the movie opening this week: It's in Danish, so you get subtitles with your gore.

TrustMovies is of two minds about What We Become -- written and directed by Bo Mikkelsen (shown at left). On one hand, Mr. Mikkelsen has delivered a rather classy treatment, with decent dialog and direction, plus a first-rate Danish cast, including Mille Dinesen (below, right), who starred in that terrific Danish TV series, Rita. The film offers a good deal of tension and suspense, occasional surprise, and something that approaches the requisite blood-and-gore quotient. (If it goes a bit light on the latter, this is fine by me, considering how many films in the overwrought and way overworked zombie genre we critics have by now been forced to sit through.)

On the other hand, however, this is about as utterly derivative a virus-produces-zombies movie that you could want (or reject). One scene after another echoes stuff we've seen too many times previous -- beginning with the original (and still un-topped) Night of The Living Dead.

The film begins, as so many of these now do, at very nearly its conclusion, which provides a grabber of an opening then flashes back a bit, so that, in passing, we hear the usual TV news story about people growing ill from some yet-to-be-diagnosed malady, which alerts us to just about everything to come. This would include the film's finale, which steals directly from one of the pivotal and best scenes of that famous and seminal George Romero movie.

The government of course gets immediately involved in things, while lying through its teeth, as governments are wont to do. And we get to know a couple of families in the little town of Sorgenfri, (which doubles as the Danish name of this movie) and come to like them just well enough to feel a little sad at their inevitable upcoming demise.

Unlike another, better and also-subtitled zombie movie -- Germany's Rammbock, which conflated the zombie genre with the confined-space movie to produce something more riveting than usual for the walking dead -- What We Become is content to roll out the tried-and-true in a slightly more well-made manner. (There's a scene here involving a baby's crib that is surprisingly restrained.)

The teenage son of one family gets involved with the girl next door (across the street, actually), as mom and dad argue about what might be the best approach to all the oddity going on around them. The film's best and most original scene involves that son, investigating things on his own and discovering more of what's going on, while unfortunately undoing most of the good that the authorities have so far put into place.

Finally the question arises, as it often does in this genre, Haven't the characters pictured here ever seen a zombie movie? If so, they're awfully slow to catch on. If not, this would imply a world in which zombie movies do not exist. Sweet Jesus -- if only!

From IFC Midnight and running a thankfully short 81 minutes, What We Become opens this Friday, May 13, in New York City at the IFC Center (midnight screenings only) and in Los Angeles at Hollywood's Arena Cinema. If you don't live in thee two cultural capitals, worry not: The movie arrives simultaneously across the country on VOD.

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