Despite the glut of entries in the zombie cycle in recent years, filmmakers have still managed to serve up several entertaining examples of the genre with the likes of Jim Mickle’s ZOMBIE VURUS ON MULBERRY STREET, Jaume Balagueró’s [REC], Rubin Fleischer’s ZOMBIELAND, and Tommy Wirkola’s DEAD SNOW leading the pack.
First time director, David Morlet (aka David Morley) throws his hat into the ring, with MUTANTS, a French-lensed offering that utilises old tropes involving virus outbreak, military operations, and the final girl syndrome and blends them to produce an above average horror film with its fair share of scares and gruesome, if somewhat unspectacular, special effects sequences.
In parlance with many of the new French extreme cinema, MUTANTS begins with shaky doc-style hand held action shot that tracks a bloodied woman fleeing the cause of her terror, as a way of introducing us to the plot proper involving a trio of survivors attempting to seek refuge at a military station called NOAH. Here, they hope to seek refuge whilst the authorities come up with a way to tackle a viral outbreak that transforms bitten victims into blood-craving monsters that continue to mutate into demonic looking ghouls that resemble a cross between NOSFERATU and the underground denizens of THE DESCENT with the advantage of being able to fully function in daylight.
Despite the obvious similarities to Danny Boyle’s 28 DAYS LATER, the central theme to MUTANTS involves the love between paramedic, Sonia (Hélène de Fougerolles), and boyfriend Marco (Francis Renaud). Having been infected, early on in the film, Marco begins the slow transformation into a monster. From here, it’s a race against time for Sonia to reach help where the couple hope researchers can come up with a vaccine to reverse the effects of the virus that’s ravaging the countryside. Sonia is convinced there must be a cure as she has already been bitten by one of the creatures but somehow her antibodies have successfully managed to overcome the virus. As Sonia battles to fend off further attacks from the mutants, Marco’s bloodlust means the dangers are closer. What’s more, Sonia is pregnant. Should she abandon her partner to his monstrous destiny, or risk her life and their baby’s in the hope of preserving the family unit?
Hélène de Fougerolles, gives the film her all with an emotional tour-de-force that is rarely seen in low budget horror movies, with such a terrifying situation presenting itself, audiences would be forgiven for imploring Sonia to save herself and kill off Marco, but the actors manage to bring just the right balance of humanity to proceedings to make her decision to live with a flesh-eating monster believable.
Morlet, it has to be said, pays visual tribute to the genre a little too much with some scenes bordering on cliché, especially derivative are those involving fellow survivors with conflicting interests that resemble several of George Romero’s human stand-offs. But the overall ambience of the film succeeds due to the director’s keen eye for visuals (much of the film is shot against white snow-laden countryside) and shot with a faded blue pallet that conveys the isolation and increasing hostilities between protagonists, whilst providing a good canvas to showcase the gore effects, and the menacing look of the mutants.
Carl T. Ford
Directed by David Morlet
French Language with English Subtitles/ France / 2009 / 89 minutes / Colour / Rated 18
Region 2 / PAL
A Momentum Pictures DVD release
Region 2 DVD (UK)
Release date 10th May, 2010