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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 09.07.09] Canada post apocalyptic zombies movie review

Year: 2009
Directors: Steven Rumbelow
Writers: David Moody / Steven Rumbelow
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 5.2 out of 10

After muscling through the first 15 minutes of Autumn (a viewing experience not unlike dropping a bottle of Quaaludes and watching the apocalypse happen through a stained glass window) I was relieved to discover that Steven Rumbelow's low budget zombie apocalypse film was not the cheapo snooze-fest I was half expecting it to be, but a decent indie character piece that handles the survival drama with a touch of class. No, this film isn't perfect (in fact, technically speaking it's a complete gong show at times), but with David Moody's great cult novel backing it up, a wild walk-on performance by the late David Carradine and zombies that would make Romero proud, Autumn proved a worthy enough Sunday afternoon diversion for this reviewer and a film I fully expect will find a following among post-apocalyptic loyalists.

The story of Autumn is as follows: In less than twenty-four hours a vicious and virulent disease destroys virtually all of the population. Thousands die every second. Billions are killed in the course of a day. The handful of people who find themselves immune to the disease band together in the basement of a community center until they fracture into three groups when the dead start to rise and walk the earth: those who go off to the country to avoid the plague altogether, those who want to reap the benefits of being the only people alive and party like it's 1999, and those who stay to wait for help. Mostly though, the film version of Autumn focuses on the group that goes to the country.

Autumn is reportedly influenced by Stephen King's PA opus, "The Stand," (minus the epic supernatural good vs. evil aspects) and as such is heavily into character development in the face of a changed world more than staging gory zombie set pieces. Like Moody's book, Autumn tackles the issue of how people come together and forge new communities to work towards survival.

The ensemble cast isn't all up to the same caliber, but luckily the production hired two great British actors, Dexter Fletcher (Snatch) and Dickon Tolson to lead it which means everyone's at least feeding off their effortless abilities.

I immediately liked the way Autumn handled the issue of the walking dead. The film takes on the alternate reality approach which (silently) hypothesizes a world that isn't saturated with zombies in pop-culture. In fact, the "Z word" is never uttered once in the film, the characters instead referring to the undead as "walkers" or "meat suits." Also, the undead aren't immediately hungry for flesh when they wake-up but rather grow to require it as the film progresses which allows for a slower build up with lots of - sometimes humorous - zombie-human intermingling. Of course, this also undercuts any sense of immediate danger or tension in the first and second act of the film which doesn't do it any favors in terms of sucking viewers into its narrative.

On another note, zombie purists will be glad to know that Autumn is fully on board with Romero's idea that the undead should be more CSI than Hammer horror. They are slow and not fully devoid of the ability to learn through a combination of instinct and experience.

As much as I liked many aspects of the film, there are some serious problems with Autumn throughout. Some of the photography and editing is unnecessarily arty and obtuse during the first act and the sound design is all over the place with some bad ADR and sound FX littered throughout. The screener I viewed came with a disclaimer warning to this effect, but I've seen lots of films that were still in post and they've usually been pretty solid which leads me to believe some of these technical issues are here to stay.

Another problem I had was with the film's 3rd act which may as well have been cut entirely for how much it added to the film as a whole. The second act is devoted to the story if the survivors in the country and how the stresses of the apocalypse affects their mind and body. The majority of the third follows one of them into the suburbs where he meets crazy David Carradine. It meanders and is too wacky for it's own good, bringing the film to a screeching halt. Perhaps this is more to do with parts of Moody's book not being exactly cinematic or easy to adapt to film, but for whatever reason it didn't entirely work for me.

Autumn has been pushed back a few times and is currently finishing up a final round of post before getting a DVD release in 2010. As a Canadian who has always lamented the fact that our nation has one of the most laughable film industries in the world I'll admit to being stoked that a film like Autumn has been made here, but it's ultimately not the film that will put us on the genre map.

Recommended mostly to zombie aficionados and post-apocalyptic loyalists.

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Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

Love the Autumn series of books. No matter how bad the moview may be, I'm still looking forward to seeing it.


tempet (11 years ago) Reply

Great review I actually have a desire to see this now, having otherwise heard only bad things. One correction, however, the amazing Dexter Fletcher was not in Snatch. He played Soap in Lock Stock...

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