Friday, November 30th, 2012 at 3:00 pm
Exit Humanity Netflix Streaming DVD
Directed by John Geddes
Starring Brian Cox, Mark Gibson, Dee Wallace, Bill Moseley, Stephen McHattie, Jordan Hayes, Adam Seybold
Foresight Features and The Collective
Originally Released: September 18, 2011
So what does the zombie movie Exit Humanity have to do with my Thanksgiving celebration? Please endure (and indulge) me while I explain a little.
Several years ago, I found myself in a position where I was going to be alone for Thanksgiving. I decided rather than do nothing; I would create my own unique personal tradition for the November holiday: I would cook up some good quality Italian sausage in place of the stereotypical turkey, and watch some zombie movies.
This may not be traditional, but look at it this way: while you were putting up with Aunt Ethyl embarking on a diatribe about Obama being an Antichrist as she shovels bad stuffing into her pie-hole, I was escaping into a kick-ass zombie apocalypse set during the U.S. Civil War era.
That’s right: zombies through the Civil War era.
Or more appropriately, beginning on the verge of the end of the Civil War – set in Tennessee as the war winds down. After serving with the Confederacy during the war, soldier Edward Young (Mark Gibson) returns to his small home in a remote forestry area of the state, to find that his wife has been infected by a strange poisonous virus turning her into a zombie.
In the development of the turn, and her subsequent killing, Young’s son runs for his life, and goes missing. Young begins a search for his boy, destroying zombies during the quest. The plan to find his son begins Edward Young on an expedition that will test his mind and soul, and his outlook on humanity itself.
Instead of being one of the zombie movies that pace at breakneck speed full of action; Exit Humanity slows down the process, allowing further serving and developing the plot, and perhaps more importantly, concentrate deeply on the characters and their evolution. This is the most powerful element of this movie, and it works brilliantly.
The distinctive concept of setting a zombie movie during the closing stages of the Civil War is, in and of itself, a masterstroke of brilliance from writer and director John Geddes. But the winning element of Exit Humanity is that it shadows the undead movie tradition in the finest form: with tons of subtext and social commentary, and a lot of symbolism. This is a movie that would make George Romero very proud, and is perhaps the best homage to this horror subgenre I’ve seen in many years.
Underneath the overarching plot, Exit Humanity investigates the concept of a changing society, transitioning from traditional to newer contemporary ethics and morals. The setting of the American Civil War is a wonderful establishment for this exploration, as the USA began its own transition. It is implied that those who initiate change come to regret it, unless they can embrace forgiveness and acceptance. Following this element of change and transition is the profounder exploration on one’s own perception of loss, transition, and failure, and eventually, to an acceptance of change. There’s also the age old element of “history repeating” that pops up here and there too.
Furthermore, Exit Humanity also explores the question of, “Who are the real monsters: The zombies or the remaining humans?” This tool is used in many zombie flicks, but is done in this movie in an accurate reflection of the environment of the Civil War, along with the overarching social commentary of social change and transition. The movie implies that we all carry the poison within us, and that it is the choices we make that create who we are.
Regrettably though, there are some politicized moments that do appear from time to time – mostly in a “where the hell did that come from” fashion. Almost out of nowhere, partway through the film, a social commentary on abortion occurs – an element that really has no overall bearing of the plot or the movie’s outcome. These “out of nowhere” commentaries are mostly unneeded for the successful telling of the story.
On that point of the writing, this enlargement of unneeded story elements extends to the surface plot as well. There’s a sequence in the movie that explores the origins of the zombie apocalypse and examines the responsibility of the person who started it all. Although this concept could be worth exploring in a movie on its own, the exploration within Exit Humanity has absolutely ZERO bearing on both the plot development and the character development, and moreover has no impact on the climax or conclusion of the movie. Essentially, it could have been excised from the plot to help move things along further.
The acting in Exit Humanity is of a high quality, and is reason enough alone for seeing the movie to begin with. Mark Gibson plays the main protagonist, who I might add looks very much like Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars Episode III in this film – he bears quite the resemblance to the bearded Ewan McGregor. Geeky comparison to the side, Gibson’s performance in this movie is nothing short of spectacular, as he accurately portrays a man knotted in rage and grief, so convincingly crafted that you can feel the torment in his screams.
Brian Cox supplies narration for Exit Humanity, which is a nice addition to the movie, serving as a descendant of Edward Young, retelling the events as documented in a journal by the protagonist. Dee Wallace makes an emergence as Eve, which will most likely be the first time most of you have seen her in a flick since E.T. (though, believe me, she’s been in plenty of flicks since then). Stephen McHattie‘s performance as Medic Johnson was an enchanting surprise; and Bill Moseley is also good as the main antagonist of the movie. My favorite role was that of Emma, played by Jordan Hayes, providing an element of hope for the story overall, and for the principal character.
Make up is also of interest too, with a wide range of design extravagances applied to the zombies in the movie. There are some of the undead that resemble the bloody and rotting walking cadavers from modern zombie flicks, but at the same time there some more traditional Romero/Sixties style zombies, with chalky makeup resembling the stage presence of the Misfits. It actually provides a nice mix adding to the ambiance of the movie.
On the horror side of things, fans will be enchanted at the use of the gore factor in the movie, which also does not go overboard. The fright factor is reasonable, though there are many standard gags reused from other horror films. This is not necessarily a bad feature though; as the mild use of these elements allows for the plot and the characters to stand out and steal the show.
On the technical side, Exit Humanity has a wonderful visual palette that is a delight to view. The camerawork is stellar, with a lighting that emulates the dimness and darker tones of The Road. There is also the use of some scenes with sepia tone or in plain black and white; but these are used sparingly and to the advantage of the narrative itself. Costuming is also tremendous, with an excellent effort placed into the uniforms of the time; but also integrating some similar costume elements from Mad Max and The Road that blend seamlessly into the era, without going overboard.
Feasibly the most unique element of the technical creation of the story is the use of some weird and nice animated vignettes that transition between several scenes.
The animation styles range in scope and style; however they add a completely different element to the presentation of the story.
The music of Exit Humanity has an exceptionally dynamic range, embracing the traditional orchestral elements, but also turning to musical elements of the time and era as well. This addition really immerses the audience in the experience. Jeff Graville, Nate Kreiswirth, and Ben Nudds have done an excellent job with this experiential motion picture score.
Exit Humanity is an exceptional film. It comes with its faults, but the overall experience is a riveting viewing experience that successfully focuses on a solid plot, outstanding character development, and significant social commentary. The zombies, while awesome, are simply an added bonus in this movie. This is most definitely a must-see experience, sure to not only delight the horror fans out there, but appeal to a larger audience as well.