Film: Eaters ***
UK Release date: 13th June 2011
Running time: 93 mins
Director: Luca Boni & Marco Ristori
Starring: Alex Lucchesi, Rosella Elmi, Guglielmo Favilla, Elisa Ferretti, Riccardo Floris, Claudio Marmugi
Reviewer: Daryl Wing
Uwe Boll, taking a long overdue break from adapting every video game property he can, has decided to lend his questionable expertise, as well as a welcome cash injection, and allow someone else to destroy the zombie movie once and for all. Despite Frank Darabont’s The Walking Dead (2010) breathing new life into a tired species, it’s been a while since a feature-length has had anything new to say on the subject, with Boll’s House Of The Dead (2003) one of the finer examples of how to put a bullet through the head of a lifeless genre. Will newcomers Luca Boni and Marco Ristori be able to resuscitate the zombie flick with their apocalyptic offering Eaters?
The world has been ravaged by a zombie epidemic of grave proportions, now governed by hordes of living dead. Igor (Alex Lucchesi) and Alen (Guglielmo Favilla) are two of the few survivors, forced to spend their days searching for fellow survivors and capturing zombies so that a scientist, Gyno (Claudio Marmugi), can continue his experiments to find an improbable cure.
On their travels they meet an array of characters still clinging to life: a crazy painter, neo-Nazis, the imposing Plague Spreader, blamed for its escalation, and a mysterious girl, uninfected, hidden from a red-blooded land of laddishness.
In a world where the ever-evolving dead lay down the law, Igor and Alen know that the girl, Christina, is vital if the human race is to survive, but when they discover Gyno’s plans to create a new breed, they realise it’s not the undead they should fear the most…
Humanity is in chaos, there’s a birth rate of zero, and the Pope just blew his brains out because he doesn’t want to come back to a world overrun by a vicious breed of anarchic thugs – and they’re just the living. Welcome to the wonderful world created by first-time directors Luca Boni and Marco Ristori, who together have engineered a movie that thankfully dares to offer some originality to proceedings, eventually.
Taking time out from reading the latest edition of Girls and Corpses magazine, our two protagonists Alen and Igor go on a little road trip to keep boredom at bay, and after half an hour of seemingly pointless banter with each other, the mad scientist Gyno and two annoying loons that demand to be eaten (the sooner the better), the plot finally finds its feet and the cast, suffering from the same acute boredom engulfing the audience, are finally thrown a bone or two. Boni and Ristori offer hints to where the plot will finally end up, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the viewer has switched off long before the foreshadowing of Gyno’s experiments, Alen’s doctor-fiancée held captive in a cage and the mysterious plague spreader finally pay off.
It really does take forever for anything to happen, and although Lucchesi and Favilla are likeable, there can only be so much of the two knuckleheads minding their own business amidst an all-too-familiar backdrop you can take. Even when hunting day arrives, you’re still left twiddling your thumbs for another good five minutes before the first zombie is dispatched. Luckily, the attractive blonde with it all hanging out is a satisfying first kill, not because of its brutality, but because Igor is able to deliver the first of many wonderful lines of dialogue. Then, finally, after yet another brief encounter with a character (the madcap painter) that offers little to the plot, things start to get interesting.
The gore may not be top notch, all too often the scene is cut just before the blood can spill, but the murky wastelands explored on route are beautifully realized, especially when they probe neighboring sectors, and the soundtrack pumps harder than Schwarzenegger in his heyday. By this point, despite a brief sidestep when our protagonists decide they need beer and must therefore visit an old nemesis (involving a fun game of Nazi target practice), the plot is finally starting to unravel into something worthwhile. The appearance of the Plague Spreader may disappoint in terms of chills and a potentially decent idea wasted (Igor does get to deliver another cracking one-liner), but on the other hand, the discovery of Christina turns this timid tale into a mind-boggling head-screw.
Although our two leads are charming in their own unique way, and Alen must have something going for him if he once dated a doctor, adding a young girl (a slightly older Mathilda from Leon) into the mix fascinates. Will they protect her or the human race first? Igor, certainly, hasn’t seen any action for a while, and despite Christina’s tender years, couldn’t be trusted alone with her. But this subplot is just the beginning, as it isn’t long before they discover Gyno’s warped plans, involving a new breed of zombie.
It’s not like they haven’t already evolved enough. Our two auteurs have cleverly moved on from a living dead that can merely keep up with their victims, allowing them to be entertained by television, carry and use weapons, and even, dare you believe it, talk. Astonishingly, it somehow works, made the more fun when Alen shoots one dead because, “she was asking too many questions”.
The weirdness is stretched even further, involving aborted babies and zombies able to reproduce, but because this is a story rarely told, you’ll be grateful for the ride. One of the final stand-offs may disappoint after all the good that went before it, and a scene involving a bomb about to detonate doesn’t make any sense, but our band of heroes prove that it’s friendship that comes before science, even if you can’t help but think Christina may regret where she aimed that machine gun.
Eaters keeps most of its horrors under wraps for the majority of the disappointing opening act and instead diverts the audience with two sufficient leads and an escalating sense of dread that pays off in an appropriately apocalyptic final act that needs to be seen.