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Doomsday: So Many Heads!

Posted by goldwriting on March 16, 2008

doomsday.jpg Now how many candles are on that cake, birthday boy?

Just when you thought we had run out of light-hearted, post-biological apocalypse flicks with a side course of cannibalism, a breath of fresh air shoots onto the screen in the form of Doomsday. My expectations going in were tempered because films like this are terribly easy to ruin by trying to be serious and ending up ridiculous, or vice-versa. It is a tightrope of mockery, dedication and respect to your audience that makes a popcorn experience like this work. Luckily, with very few moments where it could have slipped off, Doomsday traverses the canyon and gives us all something to enjoy.

Written and directed by Neil Marshall (greatest work to date: Doomsday, but he was also writer and director of The Descent, which I heard great things about), Doomsday is the common story of a virus gone wrong and the harsh containment reaction of the government. We’ve seen this many times recently in the Resident Evil franchise, Aeon Flux, 28 Days Later, Ultraviolet, even back to classics like Cyborg (Van Damme crucified, no one saw that coming). The twist to the traditional plot here is they throw in the flavoring of Mad Max and Escape from New York into the mix. Taking place in 2033, the Reaper virus is alive and killing again inside of London. The obviously corrupt government chooses to send a lone team of special forces soldiers into the previous infected and closed off area of Glasgow, Scotland to search for supposed survivors who might possibly be carrying a cure to the virus. The future in London and the rest of the world is bleak, but the future inside the hot zone of Glasgow has reverted back to medieval days. The inner city area has become an homage to Thunderdome from the Mad Max sequel and the outskirts has delved even farther back into the realm of wizards and black knights. The logic of how people regressed so fast, this being only 25 years into the future, doesn’t really hold strong, but the success of the movie comes directly from the fact it doesn’t take itself too seriously or try hard to make perfect sense. Subliminally the screen continuously tells the audience, “Relax, this is silly, laugh and have some fun. Oh, watch this, someone’s head is about to come off!”

Marshall does a great job with the tone of the film, but this of course can be easily derailed by bad actors. Luckily for him the casting people couldn’t seem to find any. Don’t get me wrong, there are no Oscar worthy performances here, but again the tone and delivery of the movie is what’s important and the actors all seemed to get right in line with it. Emma Cleasby (greatest work to date: this one, Doomsday) plays our relentless and reluctant heroine who must lead this crack team of soldiers into the contained city. She plays the tough chick well, my only concern was her performance matched with the clothes and haircut seemed awfully close to a channeling of Kate Beckinsale from Underworld. If you’re going to model the part so closely to someone else, just hire that actress. If not, you have to add in some differences, change the haircut at the very least. Malcolm McDowell (greatest work to date: A Clockwork Orange, kind of a gimme on that one) plays Dr. Kane, who is in the city when it gets walled in by the government and proceeds to go mostly mad because of it, plunging a whole city full of people back into the days of Renaissance. For me, the performance to watch and be impressed by is Craig Conway (greatest work to date: Doomsday, which might remain there for a long time) who plays Sol, the maniacal leader of the crazy cannibal tribe living inside the charred and burned out husk of Glasgow. Conway is definitely channeling Mad Max era villains, but he brings his own spice to it and succeeds in creating something humorous and insane. Just to give you a taste, very shortly after his on screen introduction, he struts out onto a decrepit stage in front of his followers, moving and grooving to the song “Good Thing” by Fine Young Cannibals. This moment could have gone so utterly wrong, but Conway commits to this in every way and sells the entire existence of his tribe in that one sashay into the spotlights. Admittedly the moment runs a little long and the Scottish chorus line that follows is over the line, but the first perfect portion of the scene remains intact.

It’s might be hard to think a film could depict cannibalism and numerous limb and head removals in a serious/hilarious way, but Doomsday accomplishes just that. One liners, explosions and chick fights help fully round out the experience and cap off the true enjoyment of this virus scenario send-up. Lastly, Doomsday also offers up one of the longest and most comical car chases I have witnessed in years. Five people, two against three, inside a car barreling down the road while being chased by the rest of the cannibal tribe. Chock full of genius moments and not to be missed by true action fans. So, if you can crack a smile when an arrow gets shot through the neck of a girl who’s already been decapitated, well then, you might need professional help, but you will also get to fully enjoy this movie. I think it’s a fair trade for a little mental instability.

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