DreadWorld Review: Survivors (2015)

I've written ad-nauseum it seems over the last few years how we are in the time of the zombie in horror. It seems every other indie film that gets pushed to reviewers has some sort of connection to the Romero-type zombie universe. Inevitably, certain sub-categories have sprung up in the "zombie" genre over the last ten years. The zombies can be your typical shambling Night of the Living Dead/"Walking Dead" zombies which seem to overrun their prey with sheer force of numbers. Or they can be Dan O'Bannon style zombies, which are a bit more lithe than their Romero counterparts and present more of a threat if engages in one on one combat with the walker.

The third sub-set of "zombie" may not even be considered ""zombies by certain purists. These are the "infected." The infected carry a lot of the same characteristics as the O'Bannon zombies and the Romero zombies, but aren't re-animated corpses. These "Infected" are usually a result of some sort of military or medical contamination that cannot be contained. Think Danny Boyles 28 Days later...or Adam Spinks' latest film Survivors.

Kate (Joanne Gale) and her cameraman Duke (Simon Burbage) are waist deep in their investigation of government weapons contractor MADEA when thing go wrong. Very wrong. With reports of the infected spreading, the government begins to exercise a choke hold on the general public. Kate and Duke become separated but as her mission turns from survival to finding Duke she is joined by Paul, a man cloaked in mystery who may be more dangerous to Kate than any of the infected.

There are two ways to make a micro budget zombie feature. The ridiculously stupid way is to blow your limited budget and hire a couple of name actors for a days work. Then you set your film somewhere that even James Cameron would struggle to shoot, say an exploding volcano. then you render your special effects on an Amiga from 1988. Otherwise known as The Burning Dead (Review HERE) blueprint, which 99.9% of the time results in a terrible film. The other way, the more intelligent way to make a micro budget zombie film is to concentrate on building interesting characters and using what few resources you have to create atmosphere and scope. Thankfully co-writer/director Adam Spinks chose the latter way to create his haunting film Survivors.

Spinks crafts a sparse, desperate, palate using every bit of his limited budget to get the most out of his vision. The film looks absolutely wonderful. I'm not sure, but it feels like Spinks is not only a fan of Boyle's 28 Days Later, but maybe even more of the follow up Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's 28 Weeks Later. The later feeling like a much more personal story than the former. Survivors takes that personal feeling and strips it down to it's most basic elements. What Kate is going through resonates even more because we understand her plight. Much like "The Walking Dead" television series, the infected are only part of the story. They are not THE story.

The film boasts strong performances from all its leads. Gale in particular carries herself with that right balance of toughness and insecurity to make her character extremely sympathetic. Even when she's making what seems like a bad decision, we empathize because it feels natural, which is a credit to both the Survivors script but also Gales ability to balance the duality of the character.

Survivors will not be a film or everyone. It's rather cliche to say, but the film is slow. Those looking for those cool KNB Walking Dead moments will be thoroughly disappointed. This is a film more about the humans than the infected. there are also some pacing issues, which are clearly functions of Spinks limited budget. The third act takes a hard left into a torture film, which seems out of place, and is rather jarring. It feels like more of a place holder for some "infected" action that the budget just wouldn't allow.

Despite it's deficiencies, Survivors is a very effective horror film. Adam Spinks does a wonderful job using the tools he's been given to craft a very personal tale of an infected outbreak. Those looking for a Fuici-esque zombie gore-fest will be left empty. But if you are looking of a well shot, well written, personal drama set against the backdrop of a horror film, then you will probably dig Survivors.

*** and 3/4 stars out of *****

That's it for me. As always thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich."

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