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Film Three Stars
I loved Dog Soldiers and I loved The Descent (Filmstalker review), both Neil Marshall creations and both excellent fun films filled with great characters and well written and real dialogue. So hearing that Doomsday was on the timetable for the Dead by Dawn Horror Film Festival this year had me itching with excitement, what’s more it was the closing film and had the potential to steal the festival.

However I have to admit, and it pains me to do so since I love these other films so much, I struggled with Doomsday and found it distinctly lacking in the areas that the previous films had done so well in.

Plot.pngDoomsday is a mix of various end of the world, future disaster films, paying homage to everything from Escape from New York and Mad Max to such films as Aliens and Excalibur.

In the future a virus has spread through the inhabitants of Glasgow infecting and killing obscene amounts of people, and it's spreading fast through Scotland.

With no cure in sight the Government have rebuilt Hadrian's Wall and contained all those infected within Scotland, leaving them to die along with the disease.

However years later the virus resurfaces in London, and the security services reveal that there are survivors in Scotland, and survivors mean a cure.

So a team of specialists are pulled together to head into Glasgow and find the man who was left in charge of finding a cure and bring him back. The team is led by a woman who was evacuated out of Scotland at the last moment by her Mother, a woman who gave up her life to save her child's.

While they head in it's clear that those in charge are not so concerned in saving those already sick and in danger, but rather letting certain population segments perish and retain the cure for themselves.

TheFilm.pngThe film opens with a voice over and a montage of images showing what had happened from the beginning of the virus outbreak to the day where events really begin. It’s interesting that here we are given one of the biggest character insights in the whole film, there are others of course but they never hit any deeper.

It’s the opening of the film that clearly brings the homage aspect right to the fore with a striking resemblance to John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, which is followed closely by a quick homage to Aliens. While some that were watching the film with me were concerned about the references to other films, I thought at the opening it was a great choice, after all we were being introduced to the characters and story line, and the references were a nice and not too obvious nod to some great films from the genre.

This continued throughout the film and coupled with a few other aspects did make me feel as though the entire film lacked coherence. In a way it began to feel like a number of films meshed together, or rather acts which had rather different styles harshly cut with the transitional sections suffering.

Looking back on it I felt that I was watching separate homage acts which were loosely joined by a plot line – the Escape From New York section leading into a short Aliens homage, then Mad Max and Duran Duran’s Wild Boys, and so on. It’s almost as this aspect overpowered the story, or perhaps it’s that the after the harsh editing the homage aspect stood out the most.

That leads me to the main part of the film I didn’t enjoy, the editing. Doomsday is very much in the vein of the Bourne films, and I would say even takes the amount of fast cuts per second to new levels. During scenes, and not just action scenes either, there are fast, multiple cuts which cover the action from all angles. Like the Bourne films it felt as though you were always playing catch up on the scenes, your mind realising what had just happened as you pieced together the close up flashes of movement.

There never felt as though there was time to take a beat to enjoy a moment or to properly take in a scene. For instance during the weekend there were many films that delivered a pay off for the audience, someone having a cleaver struck through their neck against the wall and the film taking a moment before the body slips from the head. This type of scene raised a roar of applause from the audience, but in Doomsday these were often missed.

A very similar scene has an evil character dispatched in much the same way, well I think it was through all the multiple fast cuts, and it barely raised recognition from that same audience. I think that’s because there wasn’t time to take in what had happened, or for the audience to savour the moment. Instead we see the disembodied head at the end and that was that.

It wasn't just the action sequences which were cut either, there were a number of scenes of the characters in transit, and these were cut in a very similar way. The effect this ended up having was as though we were racing forward to the next sequence, and the next homage. In a way it felt a little like a race to tick all the boxes for the fans of films from these genres.

That said there were a lot of great things about the film too, the homages were particularly well done and well transferred to this storyline, and it did feel as though they were genuine homages and not just straight rip offs. There was plenty in these sequences that were new and gave us something fresh to see.

This is clear from the start but builds up strength as we go onwards. For instance there was a moment that I felt was breaking the connection with Escape From New York that I really did enjoy. At the start of the film the lead is given a GPS tracker which she has to activate when she's ready to leave, however she's captured before she is ready to activate it. One of the captors picks up the beacon and switches it on, inquisitive and unsure, and this leads you to think that this is hitting the standard route and they'll leave it on for the rescue to come, not so, in fact it's dropped to the ground, stood on, and smashed beyond repair. A nice little touch I thought.

There were other great little touches in the film, one is pretty late on when one of the infected gets into the secure compound. I'll say no more on that for fear of spoiling things for you, but this is a prime example of the great plot turns that Marshall has brought to it. One other great one is the representation of the political power struggle - see anything resembling real life?

It's just a shame that it's been so heavily edited and that there's not more to build up the characters and make them more real and more approachable for the audience. As it is they felt pretty thin to me.

There's a great choice for some of the actors though. Bob Hoskins, as always, shines, but then what else would you expect? Here he plays a little more character than aggression, and that's very welcome.

Rhona Mitra is very capable and her accent is good, oh and there's no denying she's great to look at, but I didn't think she was stealing the show.

Someone I was hoping would steal the show though was Sean Pertwee, I love him on screen and with Neil Marshall he's had some great moments. Here though he's hardly on screen before he's being murdered, albeit one superb death scene, it still comes too soon with too little done.

As for the rest of the cast, well they were okay. There was nothing shining about them and you didn't feel anything for or against them. There wasn't a real emotional involvement in them with me, and I found it hard to feel for the leads, even giving them a pretty safe emotional thread.

There has to be some huge positive commentary on the car chase sequences though, these were superb to watch, and although sometimes they suffered from the close cropped, fast cut, Bourne moments, altogether the Mad Max car chases were superb.

Okay the plot devices that bring them to it are a bit contrived and seem to pop out of nowhere, but after they get the car going it's great fun to watch. Racing those Bentley's against the bangers looked like some great days out for the stunt team, and a great time in for the audience. That engine sounds lovely.

I have to say one thing about the moment when Rhona Mitra is tied up and has Tennants lager poured over her by the Scottish leader, that was a funny moment but it wasn't until after when one of the party I was with asked "is that a Scottish golden shower then?".

Very rude, but I laughed my head off. That's a cracking comment.

Overall.pngIt is great fun and a superb idea with some excellent visuals. However it seems that the characters and plot have suffered quite a bit from the harsh cutting of the shots and the number of cuts during the action and traveling sequences. I got the impression that the film was always racing to the next big sequence with or without homage.

Unfortunately I didn't enjoy this Neil Marshall film as much as the rest, and I really wanted to. It wasn't terribly bad, but there were issues with it which made it entertaining, but not as strong as Dog Soldiers or The Descent.

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Dead by Dawn 2008
UK IMDB Film Details



Just wanted to say that the editing and direction of this movie was absolutely shocking. How these morons can take a good idea for a movie and completely ruin it with crap dialogue and shitty 'modern' editing techniques is beyond comprehension. This kind of direction and editing is unforgivable! These idiots need to watch some James Cameron/Steven Spielberg movies!



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