Mutants makes it to DVD

Monday, 10 May 2010 07:45

David Morley’s “Mutants” is essentially a French version of “28 Days Later”, in that it features a bleak, post-apocalyptic world wherein most of the population have succumbed to a deadly virus that swiftly turns the infected into raging, animalistic cannibals. As in Danny Boyle’s masterpiece, these feral zombies are contenders for the Olympic 100 metres, not shuffling morons.

As the movie opens, medic Sonia (Hélène de Fougerolles) and her boyfriend Marco (Francis Renaud) are speeding in an ambulance through a snow-laden mountain road. Sonia tends to a patient in the aftermath of an attack, all the while watched like a hawk by Perez (Marie-Sohna Condé), a nervy soldier with a single-minded determination to stay alive and an automatic rifle unflinchingly trained on the victim.

Mutants makes it to UK DVDThis uneasy alliance rapidly goes to pieces when they fatefully stop for some fuel, and Marco is bitten by a mutant. Sonia helps get her lover to the shelter of a massive deserted building, and there does her best to contain the spread of infection, praying that she will be able to establish contact with and obtain aid from a military refuge before Marco turns.

“28 Days Later” has been referenced many times since its debut, typically with frustratingly little success. Thankfully, “Mutants” makes an exceptionally good stab at mirroring its strengths whilst avoiding the accusation of being a carbon copy. Wintry mountains and forests are a refreshing alternative to deserted city streets, though perhaps a little too much time is subsequently spent in the abandoned building.

Like Boyle before him, Morley’s story focuses on a handful of characters rather than showing us the bigger picture, lending the film an intimacy and claustrophobia. He also uses the same slightly juddery, frenetic digital photography technique and washed-out palette.

A few other characters come and go, but the heart of the movie centers on Sonia’s struggle to keep Marco alive and comfort him, and his battle to cling to the last vestiges of his humanity as the virus surges through his system. There is genuine chemistry between Hélène and Francis, and their compelling acting makes their characters’ predicament emotionally wrenching. Rather than focus on her own safety, she desperately clings to the hope that help will arrive, fearful that she will not have the guts to euthanize him.

Francis deserves a medal for his utterly convincing slide towards becoming a monster, ably assisted by the makeup department. His gradual metamorphosis sees him progress from being pale and feverish, through to an incoherent, emotionally erratic patient with uncontrollable muscle spasms, hair loss and dark infected veins snaking out from his wounds. Oh, and an unpleasant penchant for projectile-vomiting and urinating blood. Ultimately, as seen from those already fully transformed, should he be left untreated he and Sonia know he will devolve into a terrifying, screeching monstrosity closely resembling the primal cave dwellers in “The Descent”.

“Mutants” is almost an unqualified success. It is unremittingly edgy, brutal and uncompromising in its vision of the “end of days”. The constant fear that something awful lurks around every corner is backed up by a succession of terrific jump-shocks, including one right at the start that immediately sets the dark tone. Marco’s nightmarish flashes of the beast he is becoming are extremely unsettling. The ugliness and self-interested desperation of majority of the human characters underpins the more visceral action, reminding the viewer of how quickly we can lose our trappings of humanity.

Perhaps the only criticism that could be thrown at it is that unlike “28 Days Later”, there are no real breaks from the gloom, no moments of warmth or comedy to contrast with and emphasize the horror. Otherwise, though, this is a must for zombie fans!

“Mutants” (2009) is out now on DVD, courtesy of Momentum Pictures. Aside from the film, the only extra is a trailer. The main feature is 85 minutes approx, certificate ‘18’ and retails for £15.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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