Directed by: Lars Damoiseaux. Starring: Maaike Neuville, Bart Hollanders, Benjamin Ramon. Runtime: 1h 28 min. Released: This film premiered on Shudder on Sept. 17 in Canada; and is available in other territories.
Alison (Maaike Neuville), boyfriend Michael (Bart Hollanders) and Alison’s mom Sylvia (Annick Christiaens) travel to a shady hospital in Eastern Europe to visit an acclaimed plastic surgeon. Alison wants a breast reduction surgery – a scene talking about this emulates Superbad’s “she has back problems, man” discussion – and Sylvia is getting what seems like every plastic surgery imaginable. The anxious but supportive Michael is just along for the ride.
They find more than they bargained for when Michael inadvertently releases Patient Zero in the hospital’s basement as he wanders around with hospital employee Daniel (Benjamin Ramon). Zombie horror ensues.
The film starts with a bang and the beginning is delightful. It’s funny and original in premise as a zombie film set in a hospital, taking a tongue-in-cheek approach that feels fresh for this film and the dialogue that comes from the comedy is great.
The film establishes the mom’s obsession with beauty, as well as Alison just wanting the gawking to stop. Michael’s a bit of a good, but one aspect of his character is hilarious. He has a fear of blood – hemophobia – and this is really the wrong film for a hemophiliac. There’s gore on gore here and there are some unique aspects and zombies – one that is eating its own bottom half – that I haven’t seen before. It gets a bit too gross at times, but even when it is gross it’s still amusing.
The aspect of plastic surgery within the film, too, is interesting. A doctor called Yonah (Joshua Rubin) theorizes about why the zombies are loose in the hospital: “God is punishing us for interfering with his creation.” That Superbad scene about breast reduction is expressed here through the sleazy Daniel, as he’s surprised that they’re here for her. “Why mess with God’s work?” he asks. This is an interesting idea for its commentary on the world’s obsession with beauty.
About the film’s dissection of the zombie genre, the film’s truly clever when one person within the survivor’s group gets bitten and a group member suggests putting them out of their misery immediately. Then, that person who wants to kill them gets puked on and he changes tune and suggests finding a cure. The way screenwriters Lars Damoiseaux (who also directs) and Eveline Hagenbeek play with the self-interests of these characters and their survival instincts is clever. Damoiseaux creatively directs the zombie horror and takes some surprising risks that I liked.
All this said, I was disappointed by the film’s last 25 minutes. The film slips and falls in a trail of blood, gets back up a few times with some cool zombie action, and falls back on its ass again. The big problem is it falls into all the worst zombie tropes that it’s dissecting, giving a truly obnoxious character part of the spotlight for far too long, to a point where his presence takes away from the fun of the film.
It’s obvious who this character will be from the start, and he does play the role well. Maaike Neuville is also good as Alison, though she seemed to get a bit less likable in the third act once the zombie horror starts. She’s adapting to the situation and that’s understandable, but I didn’t like how her relationship with Michael was written in the second half when they had a nice chemistry in the first half.
Really, I loved the first 40 minutes of this film. I could just watch that over and over and this would be a glowing review had it kept that spirit throughout the film; but man, that third act feels icky and threatens to ruin the whole thing, especially that ending. This is two-thirds of a great film that I’d still recommend, albeit with a disclaimer.