THE CLEARING (2020)
Directed by David Matalon
Written by David Matalon
Starring Liam McIntyre, Aundrea Smith, Steven Swadling, Sydelle Noel, Hayden Currie
While I like stories that use flowery prose and round the bout storytelling like every other Tarantinoan out there, sometimes a straight forward story can be appreciated. THE CLEARING is a straight up zombie story with hardly a bell or whistle. And I’m totally ok with that.
Liam McIntyre plays Tom, a typical doofy father who doesn’t understand stuff like the difference between girl scouts and boy scouts and scoffs at his daughter Mira’s (played by Aundrea Smith) scout badges for courage. Tom is well intentioned, but obviously wanted a boy as he nicknames his daughter Sport and opts to take her out and show her how “real scouts” live in the wild. This outing just so happens to occur during the zombie apocalypse and soon Mira and Tom are separated with Mira running off in the woods and Tom trapped in his mobile home with a mob of zombies clamoring outside.
I give THE CLEARING props for being a barebones story. This is simply a story about a man trapped and attempting to find his daughter amidst the zombie apocalypse. There’s no explanation as to why people are being infected with a zombie virus or acting the way they are. There’s no attempt to humanize the zombies or give them some deep meaning past the fact that they represent the obstacle Tom much bound past in order to save his daughter and rekindle their troubled relationship. It’s simply a film about the troubled relationship between father and daughter with zombies in between them. Not all zombie movies have to have deep societal metaphors. This one simply plays with the idea of the ever-growing gulf between a parent and child as that child grows up and becomes their own person. I really dug the use of zombies in this way. It felt downright charming.
The effects are pretty good. It’s your typical zombie makeup with some CG worms tossed in—I guess they’re the cause of this plague, but we don’t get an official word. This is a fun action film as well, with some nice grounded, fast paced scenes of Tom and his multiple attempts to get out of his trapped environment only to meet waves of zombies at every turn. Personally, I’d try to stick to one location and kill one zombie at a time until they were all dead. They are in the forest, so there can only be so many zombies out there. But that’s just me with my many hours logged in watching zombie films. This plot moves at a much more rapid rate and there’s no time for patience in THE CLEARING.
Again, this one isn’t going to break any records or unlock any new ideas about zombies. It simply is a zombie film. It’s a zombie film with good action, decent effects, a powerful forward momentum, and a simplistic plot. But nothing much else. So if you’re sick of zombie films attempting to explain the existential answer to man’s place in the universe, THE CLEARING isn’t going to provide any of those answers. But it does provide some great action horror centering on the strong bonds between father and daughter. Being weary of zombie movies trying to be taken for much more than they are, I appreciate and recommend this no frills zombie flick.