Oh good, this year's Timeline has arrived.
To be honest, I'm not sure quite where to start. I'd normally start off with the plot, but it makes me angry and depressed just thinking about it, let alone typing it back out. Especially as I'd had some small degree of hope for director Neil Marshall's latest effort after his last two films were impressive, for given values of impressed. The low budget Army vs. Werewolves romp of his debut outing Dog Soldiers had a biting wit that raised it above its horror peers. And lo, we did wonder what he'd be able to do with a bit more money, and the answer was the very decent if somewhat formulaic The Descent. And lo, we did wonder what he'd be able to do with a bit more money, and the answer was this shambling monstrosity we see before us.
Sigh. Okay. A deadly new virus appears in the dark heart of Glasgow, rapidly looking like it's about to overwhelm the country. With no known cure, a somewhat callous triage occurs as the Army quickly brings down a literal iron curtain across the Scotland/England border, shooting anyone attempting to flee the rapidly crisis-addled, haggis-infested, bagpipe-tootling land of ASBO-dodging fat alcoholics. No great loss. The world quickly forgets all about the land of the Krankies and Donald Where's Yoor Troosers and rather ill-advisedly hopes that the virus issue, now known as the Reaper virus because that sounds mad cool, is settled.
It is not settled, although it's a while before it's on the radar again. Space Year 2035 (or thereabouts, I can't really be bothered checking. I'm sure it's on wikipedia or something if you're interested) sees top SWAT cop Eden "ZX" Sinclair (Rhona Mitra, never a good sign) informed by Bob Hoskins (in full-on "yar, I'm a cockney" mode) that the Reaper virus has shown up in London (happily bringing to a close this overly parenthesised sentence (finally!)). One spot of hope remains, spy satellites have shown that there's someone walking around on the ground in the hot zone. A survivor means, at least as far as this film seems to be concerned, an absolute certainty of a cure if 'they' can find this person, 'they' being in this case a small task force lead by Eden "QL" Sinclair. So off they toddle.
Turns out that the spy satellites of 2035 really fucking suck, as rather than the one solitary survivor staggering about there turns out to be hundreds upon hundreds of them, now basing their society on their two remaining cultural artefacts, eight-generation VHS copies of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdrome and Cannibal Holocaust. Cue the gang getting captured, a variety show born of the most mescaline-enhanced oddities of imagination and Sean Pertwee being eaten.
Eden "C5" Sinclair has dropped herself and her dwindling squad into what approximates to a civil war between the scientist sent in the first place to try to find a cure, Kane (Malcolm McDowell, much as I love him, these days also not a good sign) and his son Sol (Craig Conway, chewing any available piece of scenery Malcolm hasn't swallowed). A bunch of tenuously connected nonsense that frankly I cannot countenance calling a plot occurs and somehow it all staggers to a thankful end, by which time anyone bothering about any of the plot holes or character motivations will have used their car keys as makeshift trepanning tools and will no longer be looking for the answers that aren't given.
I say this film is a ghastly mess not out of an insulted sense of national pride. Devil's Gate robbed us of that a long time ago. No, this film is a ghastly mess because were I to start pointing out specific individual cases as to where this film does something incoherently idiotic that makes no sense even going by its own slender internal logic then I'd be writing for the next week. In a nutshell, this film reduces to two hours of Scotsmen slurring, "Wir gonnae eat ye". Which normally happens when I walk out of the front door, so it certainly doesn't have the horrifying effect that Marshall must have been hoping for.
Instead, we're left with what amounts to a fifth-string action movie with over the top splatter effects. If action/splatter was what I wanted I'd have stuck with Total Recall, thanks. What on earth was going through the mind of Marshall when he wrote this is difficult to imagine. As a horror it's pretty much a non-starter, the whole cannibalism angle being so fleetingly mentioned and, at least if you're comparing to the usual Chompy Chompy Human films, so sanitised that it might as well not have been mentioned in the first place. As an action film it's also flat, with nothing much exciting going on at any point, linked with some of the most bafflingly sparse exposition and 'convenient' plot devices I've ever had the misfortune to witness.
There's not a single thing done well here. The only slight defence I can think of is that it's attempting to do a lot of things, and I suppose it's only natural that with the added dollars on the budget that Marshall would like to broaden his horizons and stave off any criticism of being a one horse horror director. Unfortunately all he's proving here is, well, exactly that, and the problem with doing lots of things with what's still a relatively small budget is that everything looks extraordinarily cheap, hence the silly fake guns and silly fake armour leaving this looking somewhat less professional than The Descent and only marginally less daffy than Dog Soldiers. Look, for the good of all concerned let's just pretend that this never happened and go about our business, okay?
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 0/5 TippyMarks.
Bob Hoskins (Bill Nelson)
Alexander Siddig (John Hatcher)
David O'Hara (Michael Canaris)
Craig Conway (Sol)
MyAnna Buring (Cally)
Malcolm McDowell (Kane)