Toronto After Dark 2011: Exit Humanity Review

Surviving through life’s difficulties and is the central theme of John Geddes civil war zombie drama Exit Humanity. Exit Humanity provides a fresh take on the over pushed genre of zombie films. I don’t want to take anything away from the good zombie films but it seems to me that many new film makers just rely on the zombie love to bring get an audience. Fortunately, Geddes is able to create a compelling small scale epic drama with a strong performance by it’s lead actor Mark Gibson as Edward Young. The movie starts out with a bit of a prologue and then with Edward having just killed his wife after she turned into a zombie and heading off to find his lost young son. We follow Edward through his search, his loss and eventually his recovery while meeting a few people along the way and killing off some zombies. Like most zombie flicks the conflict is only partially with zombies with the other people still alive posing as the real threat.

Exit Humanity strength is also it’s biggest weakness. It is a very slow burn movie with long quiet moments of Edward traveling across the south with him working through his rage and depression. Very little dialogue is provided during the opening half except for voice over which is provided by Brian Cox. While I enjoy Brian Cox I will never understand the need for voice over in any movie. It is pretty obvious what is going through Edward’s mind and Gibson does quite well in conveying the emotions and the voice over is somewhat superfluous an feels as if the movie is dumbing itself down. The voice over in this case is text from the story which Young is writing and it the book is the justification behind both voice over and another important aspect of the movie. Animations are used in place of the more expensive and hard to film action scenes. For some this will be a negative but I found the animated sequences to be both beautiful and compelling and drew me in.

As already mentioned the main threat is the zombies up until the point that Edward runs into other people. A General (Bill Mosely) from the rebel army has decided that he is going to find the cure for the zombie plague and he has been capturing victims and having his doctor (Steven McHattie) study the prisoners after they have been bitten by zombies that he has also captured. Mosely does an good job although he is given a bit too much time to pontificate during a big speech which just like the voice over feels as if the Geddes does not trust his audience to understand the themes of the movie. McHattie given very little dialogue or things to do but he pulls it off amazingly with his groans mirroring the zombies yet still conveying so much more.

I will be the first to admit that I give bonus points to any movie that takes a somewhat tired genre and adds some new life into it and that Exit Humanity is not without some serious flaws. It rambles on a slow pace which sometimes pays off but at other times will lose the audience. It really feels the need to spell out its themes a bit too much and just like every other movie with voice over it would be so much better if it just trusted the audience to be able to read what the actors have to say just by their actions. Overall though, I enjoyed Gibson’s performance and found the story quite compelling. If you are zombie fan and want to try something a bit different I’d recommend giving Exit Humanity a try.

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James McNally
Guest

I think you’re going easy on the film, John. I found it pretty ponderous, for the most part. It could easily have been 30-40 minutes shorter. As I mentioned to a few people on the way out, zombies are supposed to move slowly, but not zombie films. 😉

Kurt
Guest

I would think that this idea (and style of execution) would have made for a curious lower-budget TV alternative to THE WALKING DEAD. It would have worked as a 6-8 episode season, and left room to flesh out the characters who are all curiously shallow for the ‘weight’ the film aims to put on them. (Jim Mickle had the right approach for this sort of thing with STAKELAND, not quite as ponderous as EXIT HUMANITY, but still getting the humanity/community aspects nicely into the equation). Even the Brian Cox voice-overs and chapter-stops would have worked better, as they’d have made awesome book-ends to each 22-25 minute episode. I just think they used the wrong format to tell this type of story in the fashion they chose.

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