Plague (2015)

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“A small group of survivors in post-apocalyptic Australia seek shelter from an infection that has spread like a plague among the human populace.” — IMDb

Is there such a thing as a zombie drama? Because that more closely resembles this movie. It was much less of a horror film, truly, and more focused on the interactions between the people involved — which I’m okay with. Like somewhere between a zombie drama and a zombie thriller, since there were definitely moments of suspense and twists, but not very heavy on the action (or even on the zombies, in all honesty).

It follows a group of survivors in the Australian countryside some time after an infectious outbreak. I actually don’t think they ever refer to them as “zombies”, per se. Pretty soon we’re left with just two of the group, John (Scott Marcus) and his wife Evie (Tegan Crowley). They let in another survivor, Charlie (Steven Jianai), who tests their boundaries… and eventually we’re left with an odd surprise ending.

It hit the stereotypes pretty hard, but I’m honestly not sure how possible it is to do a zombie movie WITHOUT hitting at least some of them. We had the husband left behind, the wife who is adamant about going back to find him or at least staying in one place and waiting for him, the dude who is insistent on moving on, the old guy who is the most reasonable and understanding of the bunch, and the girl (or two girls? they really weren’t memorable) who is just along for the ride. But, despite the fact that those group dynamics CAN eventually go somewhere interesting, everyone was killed off almost immediately (either literally or figuratively) and we were left with just John and Evie, neither of whom were particularly strong characters OR actors. I mean, Evie is completely dedicated to John — willing to leave the group and sacrifice everything to find him and make sure he’s okay — and he’s just pissed at her for letting them leave. Like, okay, cool dude, glad to see you, too.

Then the barn structure they’re hiding out in gets surrounded by infected people, and right in the midst of this harrowing moment John winds up with a gun in his mouth, about ready to just give up and leave Evie all on her own. The fuck, guy?

They wind up taking in an outsider, Charlie, who seems pretty cool at first. John continues to be a massive dick to Evie, talking over her, answering questions aimed at her, and saying her previous teaching job was bullshit. But they’re happy to have someone new in the group, and Evie is clearly happy to have someone who might not check out at the first sign of danger, soon imploring Charlie “promise me you’ll keep us alive”.

There’s never really any explanation for why people started getting sick, what exactly the sickness does, or how long ago anything happened — all we know is that animals don’t seem to be affected, which is just addressed in passing. Which is fine, I guess — we don’t need a detailed back story for what is essentially just another zombie movie. But I felt like this was an area that they could have explored a bit to make it more unique. John at one point is kind of theorizing on the whole concept — he says “what if mankind’s purpose is simply to live as a host?” — and it’s like it almosttt got interesting for a second but then Evie literally just shrugs him off like he’s a crazy person and that’s the end of that.

Then Charlie starts to get a little creepy. He gives Evie some kind of pin as a token of his appreciation for her, and gets a little pushy with his praise. They definitely did a good job of kind of exploring that realm of things — like we’re already in this freaky situation and our nerves are frayed and things are bizarre and chaotic, but let’s toss some sexual harassment in the mix just to heighten the overall fear and anxiety. Jianai does a good job at flipping his personality — I mean, you already have an inkling that he might not be as great as he’s cracked up to me, but all of a sudden he goes from this helpful, encouraging guy to just straight up sleazebag, and it’s really terrifying. You start to wonder what exactly his motives are, and you really forget that there’s infected people stumbling around at all.

He preys on her commitment to John to get her to give in to his advances, which is a chilling scene. John is in the midst of an intense asthma attack and there’s little to no chance he’ll make it through the night without medication, and Charlie is the only one with both a vehicle and the knowledge of where to find medication. Evie has no choice in the matter, really — as Charlie asks, “is it worth John dying over?” — and my skin truly crawled. Again, you don’t think there’s much that could make their situation worse, but, oh, hey, here’s Charlie to be a complete predator. They were subtle as far as just showing her resigning herself to what she has to do, and then showing him driving off as we watch  her heart-wrenching reaction.

The tension while Evie searches Charlie’s car for some kind of evidence is wild. Charlie and John are mere feet away and he almost glances over more than once but she’s determined to find something to corner him. I definitely found myself holding my breath more than once.

They confront Charlie after Evie finds the other half of a photo he claimed to be his own family, and he shows them an infected woman locked in his trunk, chomping at the bit for some blood. Turns out this isn’t his first time falling in love with a stranger. He’s convinced the whole infection business will just die out soon enough, and his captive bride is there to help him figure out just how soon. “Then everything will go back to normal, like it was before.” It kind of shows multiple sides of the same stress-induced mental illness coin.

This is when John FINALLY decides to act like he gives a shit about their lives and makes Charlie leave. I kind of wish they hadn’t had Evie LITERALLY cowering behind him during this scene. I’m not sure if I’m being insensitive to the crippling fear she must be feeling after her assault by him, but it was just disappointing to see them take such stereotypically gendered roles in that moment.

But then Charlie comes back, super pissed that they didn’t appreciate all he had done for them, and John decides to just… do nothing. He lets Charlie take the gun and literally lays on the ground and SOBS while Charlie takes his wife inside to rape her again. I mean COME ON MAN. He lays there until his wife finally gives up screaming for help and it’s painful as hell to watch because I can’t imagine how hopeless and pissed she must have felt that the one person who should have been putting his life on the line to protect her was just CRYING. Like, right, your fear in the face of having to be bold and fearless in this life or death situation far outweighs my desire to not get raped for the second time in as many days THANK YOU.

But then a soldier shows up and mentions that he has a place he’s going to that is safe and then John decides, again, to put his bullshit aside and and he winds up killing the dude and getting both his gun AND his directions to this safe place. He kills Charlie, FINALLY (he struggles but eventually succeeds, but not before Charlie manages to shoot Evie in the shoulder), and then him and Evie escape in his Jeep. They get to where the safe place supposedly is but Evie is just NOT HAVING IT and she just lays on the ground and cries, unwilling to even try to get up and escape despite infected people nearing their spot. So John is finally like, k have fun, leaves her a gun and walks off… but she decides to shoot him, saying “I need you to protect me”, and she walks off as he is ripped to shreds by the infected group, and the movie ends eventually with her hearing a helicopter overhead.

I just… I get it, it’s more of a psychological drama than a classic zombie horror film. But that doesn’t stop it from being kinda dumb. Which is too bad, really, because I feel like it had some promising concepts (as I mentioned, the hopelessness of having someone as predatory as Charlie around when you need him for other means of survival, and even Evie and John’s crappy relationship)… but it just didn’t quite go as deep as it needed to, or with enough gusto.

Rating: 3/10 | Director: Nick Kozakis, Kosta Ouzas | Writer: Kosta Ouzas | Music: Benni Knop, Shaun Smith | Starring: Tegan Crowley, Scott Marcus, Steven Jianai, Don Bridges

 

 

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