Written and Directed by: Julian Grant
Starring: Brian Shaw, Kathleen Lawlor, and Alden Moore
Reviewed by: Brett G.
We are all meat.
Plenty of post-apocalyptic zombie movies have attempted to put us in the place of those who managed to survive an undead outbreak. But how many have asked us to ponder what itíd be like on the other side? What would it be like to slowly lose your soul to the ravages of a virus that has turned you into a shell of your former self? Thatís the question posed by The Defiled, an ambitious film that chronicles an undead odyssey.
Itís probably more accurate to say that the ďzombiesĒ here are really some sort of infected humans that have become savage cannibals. Theyíre rather mindless creatures, but theyíve managed to retain some human qualities; for example, they still travel as families. Our unnamed protagonist seems to be wandering the countryside with his own family, and his female companion is pregnant. She eventually gives birth to the child, but she is soon killed by an apparent military strike. This leaves the man alone to travel with the newborn child; during his journey, he encounters a human woman and saves her from a pack of cannibals. Together, they wander in search of an unknown destination that seems to hold out some hope for the man and his baby.
If anything, I can at least say the concept behind The Defiled is interesting. The final product doesnít work out completely, but thereís some ambition here. I think it must have been a difficult film to pull off, as there is actually no dialogue--only grunts--so itís up to the few actors to deliver the story. Lead actor Shaw especially does a fine job of conveying a sense of urgency behind the journey he undertakes; there is very clearly something going on in his head that would give some method to the madness going on here. Unfortunately, we never quite can figure out what is going on or what the point of it all is. The ending doesnít help to really illuminate anything either, and, in the end, it all seems to signify nothing.
Of course, such nihilism is germane to a film like this and has been an effective tool for other films. However, it doesnít quite work here because the journey itself is just as dull as the ultimate destination; oftentimes, these odyssey-type films work because what is revealed during the trip rather than the end. That isnít really the case here, as our two mute protagonists just sort of wander around and repeatedly encounter some cannibals and scenes of random violence; there is one nice moment where they happen upon a ravaged church, and the female lead seems rather appalled by it all. Thereís a sense of loss felt here that seems to capture what Grant was aiming for with the film; itís just that most of it is just a bit too tedious and poorly paced to keep its momentum.
The Defiled fares much better from an aesthetics standpoint. The photography is a washed-out, art house take on nuclear winter, and it captures a world thatís faded, which is appropriate for the bleak, desolate tone carried by the film. This also seemingly invokes previous gothic horrors (and perhaps even Night of the Living Dead), and the overall effect transports us to a place that feels otherworldly and even dreamlike at times. Itís just a shame that the interesting visuals donít have an equally compelling story to match it. Grant could be a director to watch out for if that happens because he has a keen eye behind the camera, and he admittedly does squeeze as much as he can out of this filmís limited concept.
Thereís not much to squeeze, though, and this is just another case where the concept outshines the execution. Itís a highly symbolic tale in many ways (with the baby operating as a symbol of hope, I suppose) about what weíll do to maintain our humanity, which is often a fine tale; however, this doesnít seem to be the best vehicle for it. At any rate, Chemical Burn Entertainment will release the film on DVD on March 22nd; the disc will boast a nice anamorphic transfer and a stereo soundtrack. Special features include a commentary, slide show, and the filmís trailer. If youíre in the mood for a different take on the zombie film, The Defiled is worth a look, but you shouldnít exactly be chomping at the bit. Rent it!
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