Disclaimer: My reviews of media here do not mean that I lay any claim to the media in question. All reviews are entirely subjective. I may talk about how well the movie objectively works in my opinion, but it essentially all comes down to what I think of the movie. My liking a movie is not the same as thinking it's a great movie. If I trash a movie that you love, or love a movie you can’t stand, it’s not because I hate you. Also, all reviews are likely to contain SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen the movies in question and don’t want to know what happens, then you probably shouldn’t be reading about them here. Finally, a blanket trigger warning for people who don't want to read about common horror movie content such as sexism, racism, violence, etc.: I will likely discuss all of the above when they show up in the films I review, so please tread with caution. Check out this post for more on how my reviews are set up.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Horror Movie Review: Biophage (2010)

Overall: B-
Acting: C
Writing: C
Story: B
Technical aspects: B-
Effects: C

Directed by:
Mark Rapp
Aaron Jackson
Ron Marnich

This one is better than a lot of zombie movies I’ve seen lately - it doesn’t fall into a lot of the clich├ęs of the genre, and I had fun watching it - though it has its share of flaws.

It’s a pretty basic viral-style zombie movie, where the world has been taken over by “Biophages.” A team made up of Sgt. Cain (Aaron Jackson) and Dr. Bell (Ron Marnich) are on a mission for a military lab to try and find data on the outbreak from the CDC. We join them on their journey after they’ve found the CDC deserted, and they’re just trying to get back to their military lab. It’s a bit refreshing that we join them after the zombie apocalypse is already underway. Rather than go through the motions of the characters having to “discover” that the undead have turned into flesh-hungry monsters (a fact that the audience generally already knows) we’re essentially already on the same page with our mains.
As the movie continues, and the pair try to get back to the scientists working on a cure in their lab, they primarily find themselves coming up against human survivors that are far more dangerous than the ‘phages have ever been, including a Vietnam vet who has turned to cannibalism, a preacher who has gone mad thinking he can save the biophages’ souls, and the doctor they’re working for who wants to get rid of Cain because Cain had an affair with his wife. It is nice to see some focus on the humans rather than exclusively on scene after scene of repetitive zombie attacks, but coupled with the “What has humanity become?” tagline on the box comes off as a bit pretentious, as if it’s a novel concept to try and examine the dark side of humanity.
I also think the end was a bit of a let-down in that it felt like it was trying to be shocking, but to me at least came off more as “well, that happened.”

While the cover and the still shots on the back of the DVD case are in color, the movie itself is shot in black and white. This was unexpected at first, but I think works in the movie’s favor. Considering the obviously low budget of the film, it may have saved them from sub-par effects or lighting issues, and honestly keeps the movie looking pretty clean in terms of tech, as well as giving it a bit of an “old war movie” vibe. The cinematography was pretty good too. Not anything revolutionary, but the shots were framed well, and gave it a much more professional feel than most movies in this budget range.
My biggest complaint was probably the sound. The acting of our mains is all right, though a lot of the side characters leave something to be desired. But the dialogue is clearly dubbed in later (or it's been heavily altered in post-production.) The dubbing is synched well, but it means that all the voices are at the same level, and tend to be devoid of much volume-related inflection. This is preferable to some crappy films where you can’t hear what’s going on, but I don’t think I was ever able to forget that I was watching a movie. The sound was jarring the entire time, and so I was never able to be entirely absorbed in the film.
Overall, I think the movie was good. Not the best I’ve seen, but it looked professional and clean, was pretty enjoyable to watch, and was different (and better) than the majority of straight-to-video zombie films out there.

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