It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born.
First-time feature film director Cody Calahan, working from a script by he and co-writer Chad Archibald, brings us an interesting take on the zombie apocalypse via social media in Antisocial. This film gets a lot of grief around the internet, from what I’ve seen, and most of it is entirely unjustified.
As far as first films go, Antisocial has everything going for it: a young, attractive, talented cast, a clever idea, an easy to use location that provides a variety of settings, lots of gore, and a fantastic ending that opens the world up for a sequel (the already shot and released Antisocial 2). Part of what makes this work is that while it’s his first film as a director, Calahan has been working in the Canadian film business for nearly ten years — most notably for me, as producer and first assistant director on a film I enjoyed quite a bit, Exit Humanity (2011). He clearly knows what he’s doing and while this isn’t a perfect film, none are.
Essentially the film takes the traditional Night of the Living Dead scenario – group of people trapped in a house, while the threat tries to get in – and gives it a touch of Stephen King’s The Cell. Calahan plays around with our obsession with social media and uses it as the central threat, although nobody in the film realizes this until way too late. And when we’ve reached the point of no return, we get a healthy dose of body horror and home surgery to lead us to our finale.
There may be a little too much reliance on communications with a side character, who broadcasts his experience to our heroes way longer than seems reasonable, and the filmmakers decided to get a little too detailed in their explanation of the faux-science behind the infection (subliminal programming designed to keep you coming back to the film’s alternative for Facebook), but the skull-busting tumors are a nice touch.
I was a little put off about halfway through the film, though, when it became apparent that we weren’t dealing with zombies, but something more along the lines of the rage-infected from 28 Days Later. Sticking with the premise, however, leads to a conclusion that more than satisfied the requirements of this Easter marathon. And along the way, we get a lot of tension and some of the most realistic responses to killing someone that I’ve seen in any film in a long time.
The performers don’t hold back when it comes to putting themselves through the mill when the hard decisions have to be made. This is especially the case with Adam Christie‘s Jed when he argues to NOT let one of their friends back into the house after he’s showing symptoms of infection. Romaine Waite and Cody Ray Thompson both nearly have breakdowns after killing people in self-defense and it was fucking refreshing as hell to see.
Too often, films like this, especially low-budget ones, lose sight of the emotional weight of the story and the characters slide a little too easily into becoming zombie-killing bad asses. Not here. When a character dies, the others really feel it. And that helps the viewer feel it too.
The main character, though, is Sam (Michelle Mylett), who made her screen debut here. She’s since gone on to appear in The Strain and Lost Girl, and had a large role in Syfy’s three-part mini-series Ascension. Sam was unceremoniously dumped via video chat, and decides to hang out with some friends for New Year’s. She also just happens to be pregnant. So it’s not exactly the best way to ring in the New Year, even before the entire world becomes filled with psychopathic people hallucinating and bleeding from their noses and ears.
Mylett plays the part to perfection, dealing with regrets and anxieties that suddenly turn into life-or-death situations. By the end of the film, when she picks up the power drill from the disgustingly filthy basement sink and raises it toward her own forehead, you can see that she’s dedicated entirely to the idea of surviving. And while it may be a bit much for some when she immediately afterwards grabs an axe and starts defending herself from the infected, I cheered.
That’s what a good Final Girl does.
And she’s killing zombies for two, after all.