Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
Directed By: David Pastor & Alex Pastor
Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci, Chris Pine, Piper Perabo, Emily VanCamp
Ah zombies…They seem to be everywhere nowadays! Figuratively speaking, thankfully! When the ‘Godfather of all Zombies’, George A. Romero, conceived the idea of the dead coming back to eat the living for his 1968 horror, Night of the Living Dead, he arguably sculpted, not just modern day cinema, but to some level, all forms of multimedia as we know it today. Max Brooks’s intelligent books The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z and Robert Kirkman’s brilliant comic series, The Walking Dead, which has now been cleverly adapted into an acclaimed television show, are just a couple of examples that have both proven the concept of zombies to be a very advantageous platform for successful apocalyptical stories. Even one of the most successful video game franchises of all time, Call of Duty, has latched on to this lucrative idea and much to the delight of players, ‘COD’ continues to develop this area of its franchise, which is rapidly becoming the most sought after element of the game. Anyway, onto the subject of what I initially intended this review to be about! (See, I too get carried away when talking about these munching monsters!)
2009 American horror film, Carriers, is one that involves this idea of a flesh-eating plague, but not exactly one which conforms to the conventional archetype of a traditional zombie flick. In this case, the virus is one which gradually eats away at the flesh of those infected. It doesn’t turn the ones with the disease into savage, biting horrific-looking dead people in need of concealer here or there, neither does it turn you into a monkey, or raging looney, I can’t remember which (see 28 Days Later for monkey reference)! Instead, what actually happens in Carriers is quite the opposite. The disease attacks your own body until you look like a zombie, but ultimately you get so weak that it eventually kills you. Happy thoughts! However, at least you could live in this post-apocalyptic world (if you made it that far) knowing that you don’t have to look behind your back every second for ‘walkers’, as the modern-day zombie has come to be known.
In Carriers, Brian, the strong male lead who sometimes acts irrationally, but appropriately at the same time, (you learn from this film that irrational and appropriate would mean the same thing in an apocalypse) tries to get himself and three others to a safer place called Turtle Beach through a highly infected southwesterly region of America. His younger brother, Danny, the brains of the family and of this quartet fleeing from the pandemic, is the more moralistic of the two, but always relies on Brian to make the tough decisions. Bobby, Brian’s attractive but ditsy girlfriend, is the one in the group who is too ignorant and unfit for this collapsed world and Kate, the final group member, plays a more subtle role as Danny’s less morally opinionated, more practical inner voice.
Before they journey across the ironically beautiful scenic routes, which have succumbed to this decaying world, the film opens with home-movie footage of brothers, Brian and Danny, playing on a peaceful, tranquil (Turtle) beach, a contrast to the horrific virus the world is later infected with. This beautiful scene turns on its head, literally so, transitioning onto the road where Brian drives his three fellow survivors.
The group comes to an abrupt stop as they come across a deserted father and his infected young daughter. Understandably so, Brian chooses survival and abandons them, but is inevitably forced to go back and retrieve them. Before the group agree to this decision, they come to blows with one another as each of them have clashing opinions on what to do to survive. Brian begins shooting at a sign of a law enforcement officer, seemingly for target practice, but probably just as much out of frustration too. Equally, on a more symbolic level, shooting at the sign of an officer brings to light the vanishing of law and order along with the Earth’s population due to this pandemic. This is when you first realise that this world really does mean ‘survival of the fittest’ and therefore questions whether doing the moralistic thing of going back for said father and daughter really is the best choice.
Eventually, the group chooses right over safest, going back for the father and his infected daughter, who we are later introduced to as Frank and Jodie. Frank speaks of this vaccine the CDC are supposedly developing at this nearby school, which Frank wants Brian and the gang to help him get to. After thoroughly wiping down Frank’s car with bleach and disinfectant, Brian drives them all to the school in hope of finding this too-good-to-be-true serum. When they track down the lab, materialised out of school facilities, which suggests how unprepared even the CDC were for this outbreak, the survivors find out that this vaccine is indeed as implausible as they first assumed, finding the only doctor still remaining about to commit suicide with a lethal dose of potassium, with which he also gave to the infected children that were being unsuccessfully tested on for a cure.
Out of another act of morality, Bobby, who was looking after the infected Jodie back at the car while the others searched for this lab, was inevitably infected after she tried to rescue Jodie from sudden breathing troubles. Again, this brings into question the way in which people should choose to live their lives in a world faced by a pandemic such as this. Should you do the right thing, or should you do what’s best for you?
Acknowledging the fact that all hope is lost for his daughter, Frank is forced to realise that the next course of action is simple and he must let his surviving comrades go, as they still have a chance of seeing out this pandemic. However, after this bitter ending to Frank and Jodie’s involvement in the story, a wave of doubt looms over the remaining characters and whether they can endure this decomposing world themselves.
The gang venture out once again, hoping this time not to run into any more difficult situations that would see themselves put to more risk. As you know though, any film worth watching must have its twists and turns! The cruelty of Frank and Jodie’s stalemated ending also suggests that this hell on Earth doesn’t hand out justice as often as is needed. Sure enough, trouble lies ahead as the group decide to stop for the night at an abandoned golf club, which unbeknown to them is occupied by a small group of armed survivalists; possibly ex-military. The militia group conduct a strip search procedure on Kate and a rather suspicious Bobby, to find that Brian’s foolish girlfriend is indeed infected. Brian’s reaction is a worrying one, not just for Bobby’s wellbeing, but also for his own safety, one would assume, as he notably shared a kiss with Bobby not so long before it was confirmed she does have the disease.
After being rejected from the golf course, our group of four hit the road again. A very silent journey onwards towards the majestic-sounding Turtle Beach. Unfortunately, you can’t help but wonder at this point that the strength of the group is being tested more than ever and that what has always been a group of four, could soon be one person less by the end of the day. Brian comes to the tough decision that he must leave his girlfriend behind if Kate, his brother and himself are to make it to the beach alive.
Presently, Turtle Beach has never seemed so far away from the characters. Not only have they had to leave behind those infected, but along the way they have also lost each other in the sense that each character has now realised the true harsh nature that they must each fend only for themselves. Therefore, the happiness that they are so reliant on Turtle Beach gifting them, is just simply a fantasy that is giving these characters the false hope of living for.
The last expedition the remaining three set out on in hope of reaching their illusionary perfect away-from-it-all destination, sees one final act of Brian’s ‘appropriate’ decision-making. In order to keep the beach pipe dream in his grasp, Brian mercilessly kills two passers-by in cold-blood for their fuel. This act of immorality is a hard slap in the face, which I believe is intended as a one last attempt to show people the right answer to the one burning question this film asks: What would you do? Although this final act has seen Brian make his last rash decision, it’s not to say it is quite the end of the film. The question of what would you do still lingers for the younger brother, Danny, as he is required to conform to Brian’s rashly, decisive ways and answer he film’s burning question himself.
I applaud this film for its very clever interpretation of the post-apocalyptic genre. For most zombie movies, it’s all about the zombie kills and the gruesome deaths that are elaborated and relied upon to make for an entertaining story. Carriers however, explores the more psychological side to this genre and really points out the questions and tough decisions you could be faced with. I think the clearest example of this is when Brian had to leave his girlfriend behind. Leaving a loved one behind shows just how extreme the circumstances are. The film is also very clever symbolically, as there are certain things within the film (such as the sign of a law enforcement officer) that visually help depict the themes addressed in the film. A particular feature that was very figurative for me was the key ring attached to the car keys. The key ring depicted the logo of The Punisher; a comic book anti-hero. In the context of the film, it makes so much sense because it poses the question: Is the human race being punished? Being part of the car keys, a characteristic of the film so important that it could be a character itself, as it is as much of a road movie as it is a post-apocalyptic movie – the key ring makes the punishing of the human race one of the most meaningful themes of the film.
As far as my critical opinion of Carriers goes, there is just one simple comment I could think of, which is that I feel the movie never really offered anything more than the psychological interpretation, albeit wonderfully executed. With a film concerning a post-apocalyptical world such as this, sometimes you do need something a bit more than just a few tough decisions for the characters to face. A bit of gore or a zombie death here or there really can make a film like this more fun and exciting, as cliché as that is! It’s a cliché because that’s what the people want to see from films like this!