Exit Humanity (2011)
(15) Running time: 108 minutes
Director: John Geddes
Writer: John Geddes
Starring: Mark Gibson, Jordan Hayes, Dee Wallace, Bill Moseley, Stephen McHattie, Brian Cox
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
With the Zombie genre of horror quite literally done to death, you have to begin to wonder just how writers and directors can come up with something new. It does happen every so often: films like 28 Days Later, The Dead, (Rec), Pontypool and Colin have all recently shown that there is still so much to explore with the genre, and I am positive the upcoming World War Z will give the zombie film a decent box office boost. Writer and director John Geddes’ Exit Humanity fits in with the more original zombie flicks like the one’s previously mentioned, the film can easily sit alongside many other defining moments in the history of the zombie film that actually has something new to bring to the table, something fresh.
While the zombies themselves here are nothing we haven’t seen before (slow moving, moaning and generally not all that scary) it is the setting and the powerful story which sets this film in a different league to the more common sort of zombie horror. The setting here is based in the 1870’s, right after the American Civil War, so already we have an interesting premise. The outfits are all authentic and superbly crafted, making the film look more like a true story or history lesson than a full on horror. We meet Edward Young (Gibson) who is on his way home after fighting in the Civil War: looking forward to seeing his wife and child, he returns to Tennessee only to find the land ravaged by an outbreak of the undead. Sadly his wife falls victim to the plague, and Young is forced to kill her, leading to him setting on a quest to find his Son. With his best and only friend (his horse) he heads off through a battered, lonely land that has a terrific apocalyptic feel to it. In fact, if you think of Jim Mickel’s excellent Stake Land, then you have a good idea how this film looks.
The cold and lonely countryside make for some beautiful imagery that becomes all the more unsettling when you start to see the undead appear, shuffling through the trees. The authentic feel to the film is lifted by an outstanding voice over by Brian Cox who narrates Young’s thoughts as we progress through the film. Cox has a wonderful voice, and the voiceover adds a real drama to the film, and it is often joined by some gorgeous artistic moments where the story unfolds as a bare basics and chilling animation. It works incredibly well, and is an idea that should be applauded for its originality and bravery. As Young’s quest continues, his search for his Son leads to an incident which fills him with rage, and he becomes a man hell bent on revenge, and while on this dangerous path he meets another man like himself, Isaac (Adam Seybold). Isaac has lost his sister Emma (Jordan Hayes) and Young offers to help him get her back. This leads to encounters with General Williams (an excellent Bill Moseley), a man still believing he is fighting a war, and is desperate to find a cure for the zombie virus. In true villainous style, he will stop at nothing to find it, and he is rounding up civilians to do experiments on. The always excellent Stephen McHattie plays Medic Johnson, General Williams’ right hand man who conducts the experiments.
The film continues to stick with a more dramatic approach rather than go into a full on horror, and some fans of the more fast paced, gore soaked mayhem may find Exit Humanity painfully slow. I found the film to be incredibly interesting, powerful and emotionally charged, with some outstanding performances with an incredibly well presented authentic setting that injects something new to the genre. Yes there are times when the film drags a bit, and there are many times where you feel it could have been cut down to avoid too much lingering on a particular moment, but these are minor complaints. What we do have here is something new to add to the genre that we all know and love, something fresh and inventive. Yes the ideas don’t always work, and often the film gets carried away with its own sense of style over substance, but you cannot help but applaud directors willing to try something new to a style of film that has been around for decades. Exit Humanity is certainly not to everyone’s taste, but those looking for something a little different, with strong performances and an intelligent script, should fine plenty to enjoy here. It is not particularly violent, and is not exactly edge of your seat thrilling, but it is a film that draws you in and suffocates in its superb representation of a ravaged land desperate to find its feet again. Powerful stuff.