The Film: Exit Humanity (2011)
The Principles: John Geddes (writer/director), Mark Gibson, Bill Mosley, Brian Cox, Jordan Hayes, Adam Seybold, Dee Wallace
The Premise: Six years after the Civil War, the dead are suddenly rising. Veteran Edward Young, after losing his wife and son to this plague, journeys to a waterfall he had promised his son they would visit in order to spread the boy’s ashes. He makes a friend in Isaac (Seybold), whose sister, Emma (Hayes), has been kidnapped by General Williams (Moseley), a maniacal Confederate vet who will stop at nothing to find a cure for the “disease.” Shenanigans ensue.
Is it any good? I want to like this movie. I really do. John Geddes is nothing if not ambitious here, and he tries his damnedest to do something different. But is there a genre that has been more exhausted than the zombie movie? Though his kitchen sink approach is not without its occasional charms, Exit Humanity ultimately falls in the failure pile. You can tell Geddes had high hopes for this to be a sort of slow-burn, pseudo-intellectual meditation on the human condition, as his characters spend much of the runtime waxing philosophical about the inhumanity that abounds now that this plague has swept the land. Between the dialogue (with classic gems like “You can’t kill a man who’s already dead.”) and Brian Cox’s constant narration, every theme that is already recognized as a staple of the genre is explicitly spelled out for the audience. It does not take long to realize that all of this pontificating consists of ideas that are and have been more effectively communicated through subtext in better movies, which turns this slow-burn into a drag.
As I said, the movie is not without its charms. Whether this was for budgetary reasons or not, Geddes’s decision to use little snippets of stylish animation in order to show long stretches of travel or fighting is interesting, and though it may not be for everyone, it served to liven things up between Edward’s extended screams of anguish. The score is well-done, if a bit bombastic and over-the-top. It does its job in serving the super-serious tone Geddes is after. The writing may leave a lot to be desired, but the acting is solid across the board. Though the first 30 minutes of the script are essentially limited to “Edward howls in agony,” Gibson is quite good in his debut, effectively selling both his grief and subsequent recovery.
Dropped late in the meandering plot is a relatively interesting – but inconsequential – explanation for the plague, one that harkens back to the zombie tales of yore. Speaking of the plot, this thing wanders more than Carl at a farmhouse. Plotlines are created and resolved about every 20 minutes, which may fit in with the “chapters” division of the film, but in the end seems more like an excuse for Geddes to have these characters continue their endless moralizing. Bill Mosley, who will make anything entertaining, is woefully underused, and the find-the-cure angle is seriously undercooked; one person is inexplicably immune to the plague, though how exactly General Williams and his crackpot medic plan on manufacturing a cure, restoring the Confederacy, and taking over the country is unclear.
I mentioned a few positives about this whole affair, but none of them are enough to overcome Exit Humanity’s runtime. There is just no reason for this film to be two hours. If you are going to have your characters dourly ruminate for 90 percent of your movie, that other ten percent better do a hell of a job in giving us a way to really connect with these characters, or at the very least inject some levity into the proceedings. Unfortunately Exit Humanity does neither.
Is it worth a look? If you somehow aren’t yet burnt out on the undead, you may enjoy it, so long as you are not expecting balls-to-the-wall zombie mayhem. Everyone else, your time is better spent elsewhere. Any movie that wastes Bill Mosley is fighting an uphill battle.
Random anecdotes: Geddes claims he learned much of what he knows about filmmaking from watching the special features on the Lord of the Rings boxset.
According to numerous interviews, Malick was Geddes’ chief inspiration. Huh.
Cinematic soulmates: Dead Birds, War of the Dead, Dead Snow, anything dead.