DOOMSDAY (2008) review
written by: Neil Marshall
produced by: Benedict Carver & Steven Paul
directed by: Neil Marshall
rated R (for strong bloody violence, language and some sexual content/nudity)
1 hr. 45 min.
U.S. release date: March 14, 2008
DVD/Bluray release date: July 29, 2008
I was really surprised to find out that this new film by writer/director Neil Marshall had not been screened before it’s release. No press screenings for a film usually mean certain “doom” for a movie’s chance of surviving the tumultuous box office waters. Generally, that’s true. The studio may have been sitting on a film or they know the movie is a dud yet they also know they gotta release and see if at least makes them some kinda profit. Since none of the critics have seen a film that hasn’t been screened there’s usually some kinda automatic negative vibe when it’s eventually released (I just think the critics are being’ babies cuz they haven’t been given a look at the film in advance). If I’m already stoked to see a film, bad reviews don’t stop me.
Sometimes, if you enjoy a certain genre, especially a certain filmmaker, you just go see a film despite what the word is and make up your mind for yourself. Now, I like pretty much any kind of post-apocalyptic sci-fi story be it action or horror. So when I heard that Marshall was essentially working on an homage to such films, I was in. Why? Primarily cuz his previous two films proved to me that there’s someone out there willing to take a new twist on the action-horror genre. 2002’s “Dog Soldiers” was an original look at the werewolf genre and 2005’s spelunking, all-estrogen nightmare “The Descent” had me goin’ to bed with the willies. While these films had originality going for them, they also had some decent character development in them to keep one’s interest.
In April 2008, the UK faces annihilation at the hands of something called a Reaper virus that is violently killing off Scotts. It’s like “28 Days Later” only they die instead of going berserk. So, the British government decides to quarantine Scotland by erecting a 30 ft. wall, leaving those who couldn’t escape to fend for themselves until they get sick and die. We’re not only shown all these scenes but maps are drawn and narration is given as well by actor Malcolm McDowell. No one really knows what happened inside the wall since the quarantine but one can only imagine the horror.
Three decades later, that same virus is loose in London and the only hope (and perhaps civilization’s) appears to be a blip found on satellite coverage of Glasgow. Since they thought that all life on the other side of the wall would’ve been annihilated by the virus, they’re sure this means a cure. So, England’s Prime Minister Hatcher (Alexander Siddig of “24”) is coerced by his corruptible Number Two (David O’ Hara) to send an “elite team” over the wall to get the cure in 48 hrs. They turn to a government handler, Nelson (Bob Hoskins) cuz he knows just the right someone to lead an elite group into Scotland. That would be his best operative, Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra), the chain-smoking, deadpan action heroine who is basically the female answer to Snake Plissken. It’s never really clear what Sinclair’s title is just that she kicks butt really good and in a movie that doesn’t really get too deep, that’s enough for me.
We pretty much know already that Sinclair takes the mission or else it wouldn’t be the adrenaline-crazed, post-apocalyptic movie that it is. He tells her that the team needs to find a doctor named Kane (McDowell) and get a cure outta him. No problem. Heh. Sinclair takes it not just cuz the fate of all civilization rests on her know-how but cuz she’s haunted by the fact that her mother was left behind in the quarantined zone. The prospect of her mother being alive is slim but the curiosity of going back to her place of birth probably factors as well. Yes, Sinclair has the requisite tortured past and her fake right eye to show for it. She’s introduced to head soldier, Norton (Adrian Lester), and is put in charge of a team of soldiers, doctors and other unknown specialists before the giant walls advance them to their, um “doom”.
Once the armored team gets to the hospital in Glasgow where they think Kane might be all hell breaks loose. They immediately find out that the source of that satellite blip is actually a rogue community of punked-out cannibals led by Sol (Craig Conway). He’s a skinny, psycho sporting a mohawked with raccoon-eyed make-up and intends to use Sinclair as his way back to civilization (I think he’d need a lil more than her). Of course that plan doesn’t quite work out, soon enough Sinclair and what’s left of her team are trekking across lovely Scottish landscapes to find Kane. Turns out he’s holed up like Col. Kurtz in some castle in Edinburgh with a society of his own made up of medieval rejects and heavily armored knights. Bloody Middle-Age violence ensues with whizzing arrows, bludgeoning battle axes all while finding an unlikely cure.
The rest of the film is more crazy-action turned up way past eleven. Logic throughout the film is loosey goosey at best but it definitely gets tossed out the window of Sinclair’s 2008 Bentley she commandeers, especially when she finds a brand new cell phone that is able to patch her through to Nelson. Hullo? How would that happen? But when I saw it, I just laughed cuz this isn’t the type of movie you question. If you like the genre, you just go with it. This film really is insane, it’s a side of Marshall we haven’t seen before except for perhaps in the final battle in “Dog Soldiers” but even this is 100% more in-your-face. Marshall adds his humorous subtleties and in-jokes that amid his chaotic homage that make you laugh-out-loud (like the running gag with a dead girlfriend) almost with queasy child-like glee.
If you can’t stomach violence, lemme forewarn you, Marshall is all over the place with his violence here. There are severed heads and arms which are seemingly a running theme. Blood sprays, splats, drips, hits the camera lens and pops in a crimson celebration of wet, vibrant viscera. What else? There’s an eyeball cameras. Skanky chicks adorned with tattoos and piercings. Eviscerated rabbits A herd of cows. There’s a man barbecued alive and then his flesh consumed by punk-rock psychos. Yeah, it’s just crazy but in some crazy way I had fun with it. It brought me back to all those action-heavy, futuristic movies I watched in the 80’s. Marshall gets those movies and adds his own special brand of unbridled fury and tosses it all on the screen.
Throughout the story’s hyper-kinetic pace, there really isn’t much time for character although there are some characters, let me tell you. This isn’t an actor’s movie anyway but Mitra really does deliver a great cold-hearted action hero. She’s the estrogen-laden Snake Plissken wanna-be that you can’t take you’re eyes off, despite her characters defiance of logic. Hoskins and McDowell’s roles are far too small but it’s good to see them there. I was resolved from the start to not get too involved with these characters and just go along with the thrill ride.
Marshall has said in interviews that the film is an homage to a variety of previous cult classics such as: “Escape from New York”, “The Road Warrior”, “The Warriors”, “Maelstorm”, “Zulu”, “Excalibur” and “The Fisher King”. There’s also a touch of “28 Days Later” inspiration only the plague that effects Scotland here fills people instead of turning them into raging, murderous savages. While viewers and critics are crying rip-off and calling this the “worst movie ever” (to quote Kip from “Napoleon Dynamite”, “How can anyone even know that?”), I think they are forgetting the definition of homage and not giving Marshall enough credit. He knows there are many elements in this film that have been seen elsewhere….how could he not? He’s just celebrating those films.