Director: David Morlet
Writer: Louis Paul Desanges & David Morlet
Starring: Helene de Fougerolles & Francis Renaud
Too many zombie flicks start off with the initial outbreak. It’s a story told over and over, where people are surprised the dead walk. Half the movie is chewed up establishing the stuff we already know: the zombie plague is passed through biting, best way to kill them is the headshot, blah, blah, blah…
MUTANTS doesn’t follow that well-tread path. At the beginning, there’s a simple explanation concerning a virus. and then it moves on with a story of three survivors who seem to be well aware of the rules of how to survive a zombie apocalypse. Did the virus come from an asteroid? Monkeys? A school science project gone horribly, horribly wrong? Who knows? And who really cares? The best zombie films just happen without explanation. A surefire way for me to not be a fan (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD excluded) is to explain why the zombies are walking around and chomping brains.
To be precise, the creatures in this story are more “infected” than “zombies” although the virus kills the host then makes them run around in search for living flesh to gnaw on. I know to some there’s no difference, but you’d be surprised at how true zombie-heads will flip their shit if you don’t distinguish the two. As much as I have a fondness for the old school Romero-roaming zombies, the sprinting infected a la 28 DAYS LATER are pretty terrifying in their own right.
Speaking of 28 DAYS LATER, MUTANTS plays much more like a well-made sequel to that film, much more so than the larger-scoped 28 WEEKS LATER. While the sequel pulled back the camera to show more of a big picture of the outbreak, MUTANTS tells a much more intimate tale, even more intimate than the Danny Boyle classic. MUTANTS focuses on one couple fighting desperately to overcome the plague. It’s a much more personal story. One (Marco, played by Francis Renaud) is infected; the other (Sonia played by Helene de Fougerolles) is apparently immune to the virus. Unlike most infected zombie films, the transformation is not immediate, which makes for a much more intimate and horrifying experience. Watching these two people who are very much in love try desperately to save their humanity proved to be tough to watch. Director David Morlet takes his time and really lets you get to know these two characters well. When Marco starts having fits of rage and chases Sonia through the hospital they’ve taken refuge in, the danger is twofold. First is the immediate danger, as Sonia is running for her life fleeing her blood soaked lover. Second, and more palpable, is the fear I experienced when the fit had subsided and Sonia opens herself up again to Marco. The strength of the two’s relationship is more than this reviewer could handle, that’s for sure, and while Marco’s fate seems inevitable, I felt myself rooting for Sonia to find a cure and have the two spend a little more time together. The film crosses more into Cronenberg’s THE FLY territory during this middle section as the patient turns on the one who has helped him through the whole film.
But fear not, the intimacy is soon shattered when a group of wandering nomads armed to the teeth break into the hospital. Of course, this being a zombie film, the true monsters are those left alive, surviving the zombie holocaust, but losing the humanity that made them alive in the first place. The final moments, though somewhat similar to the bone-chilling “In the House—In a Heartbeat” sequence from 28 DAYS LATER, is just as intense, with the library smoke bomb scene being the highlight scare scene in the whole film only comparable to the scene where the survivor with the machete cracks open a can of whup-ass on a slew of the infected.
I was really surprised by how good this film was. The acting is pretty fantastic and de Fougerolles is pretty easy on the eyes with that impish hotness French chicks often exude. The infected have a glazed donut look here with their features swollen, smoothed out and slick with blood, making them look more like walking open wounds–which would make sense since that’s the way the virus spreads. For you folks like my inbred cousins who “don’t like tuh read movies”, I must warn you this is a French film and the subtitles I saw the film with were a bit off in the translation, but it didn’t take away from the film as a whole. If you loved 28 DAYS LATER, you’re most likely going to take a liking to this film. And for those who thought that zombie horror was overplayed, MUTANTS comes along and proves that there’s life in the old sub-genre yet.