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.

For the curious, here are links to 20082009 (a bad year), 201020112012 (when we left the blog behind), 2013201420152016, 2017, and 2018.

We decided to close out this year’s Easter Zombie Movie Marathon with one of the most well-received – by both critics and fans – zombie movies in recent years: Cargo. Cargo was originally a short film by Australian filmmakers Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke that was released online in 2013 that almost immediately got American producers’ attentions. After three years of script development, the feature was then shot over 6 weeks and was picked up by Netflix as they went into post-production.

The film centers on a father, Andy (Martin Freeman), who is bitten by a zombie and has approximately 48 hours before his transformation is complete. In that time, he has to get his infant daughter to safety. Along the way, he meets up with Thoomi (Simone Landers), an indigenous girl who is trying to keep her infected father alive while hiding from her mother, who is part of an indigenous warrior group traveling the Australian countryside killing and burning zombies.

Landing Martin Freeman for the lead in Cargo was an amazing casting coup for Howling and Ramke (which also helped when it came to the budget as his name brought more money to the picture, making Cargo a modestly – but generously for first-time filmmakers – budgeted feature). This is a film that rests almost entirely on his shoulders – no pun intended (he carries the baby on his back) and he brings a desperate believability to the role.

Simone Landers as Thoomi also brings a level or realism to her performance that perfectly complements Freeman, while Geoffrey Simpson’s cinematography helps to make Western Australia look both beautiful and deadly. Of the few zombie movies we’ve watched for the marathon that have been filmed in Australia, this is probably the most gorgeous.

Gore fans will need to look elsewhere, though. There are a few gruesome moments here and there, and the look of the undead is thoroughly original – as is one specific aspect of their behavior – but Cargo is more of a slow burn film concerned with character over action. At the same time, the film never seems to lag, shifting locations from a houseboat, to car travel, to walking across the desert, while Andy and Thoomi come across a few locals who provide some drama and support.

And for a film with what could be a horribly nihilistic viewpoint, Cargo ultimately ends up being fairly uplifting in its own way. It avoids another potential misstep with the way it treats the indigenous people of Western Australia, thanks to bringing on special consultant through the writing process and then by working with local elders in the communities around which they filmed. Howling and Ramke went the extra mile to make sure that the film was as respectful and culturally accurate as possible.

So, the 2019 Easter Zombie Movie Marathon draws to a close with what might be one of the most satisfying films that we’ve seen in a long time. Cargo, along with Ravenous, helped to elevate the marathon above the standard zombie fare, and that’s really what makes this annual event worth it. There’s a huge variety available in zombie cinema, whether we’re talking about subject matter, plot devices, settings, themes, philosophies, budgets, and quality of effects and performances. It’s a genre that has the potential to tell pretty much any type of story you can think of, the same way westerns, war movies, or mainstream dramas and comedies can. They’re usually just a little grosser.

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