The zombie genre has become such an overused cliche that it’s even a cliche to talkabout what a cliche it is, so we’ll spare you to the usual spiel. Point is, if you’re going to release a zombie flick in the year of our Dark Lord 2019, you’d better be bringing something fresh, unique and interesting to the table. Happily, The Night Eats the World manages at least a couple of those accolades and is an effective slice of genre filmmaking in its own right.
The Night Eats the World tells the tale of Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie), a vaguely misanthropic musician who is reluctantly visiting his ex-girlfriend, Fanny (Sigrid Bouaziz) to retrieve some audio tapes he left with her. However, when he arrives there is a party in full swing and Sam, unable to get Fanny alone, retreats to a backroom and passes out. During the night chaos reigns and when Sam wakes up the next day, he faces a world that has completely changed, and the surprisingly spry dead are frenziedly feeding on the flesh of the living.
Anyone who has seen 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead (1978 or 2004) or even Shaun of the Dead (or about six hundred others) will be familiar with the basic setup here. Where Night sets itself apart is through tone and perspective, which in this case is very French. Sam is a compelling protagonist, who reacts to most situations with an appealing sense of practicality, but he’s also troubled and possibly mentally unstable. This volatile mix adds a unique sense of tension to the proceedings, where we’re never sure how much to trust Sam’s perspective. The zombies, too, feel quite fresh, standing stationary until they see or hear something and then moving nightmarishly fast, similar to the Aussie undead in Cargo, but also completely silent; with nary a groan of a hiss to be heard from them. Combined with very little dialogue throughout the film, this imbues the movie with a curious sonic minimalism which is oddly effective and extremely creepy.
Ultimately, The Night Eats the World plays out like a French indie I Am Legend, with lashings of 28 Days Later-style fast paced action and surprising moments of existential rumination. It’s confidently directed by Dominique Rocher, extremely effectively acted by Anders Danielsen Lie and reminds even the most zombie agnostic why there’s still twitchy, toothy life left in this versatile sub-genre.
Starring Pepi Sonuga (Ash vs Evil Dead) as the temptress and ringmaster Daisy, with Jessica Amlee (Heartland), Tru Collins (Insecure), Kellan Rhude (The Axe Murders of Villisca), Aaron Groben (Face Off), Jarrett Sleeper (Stranger Than Fiction), George Todd McLachlan (Josie) and Sam Aotaki in support, and music and orchestration by hard rock outfit The Dead Daisies.
2017’s Happy Death Daywas a fun, albeit flawed, genre romp from director Christopher Landon. Featuring the wonderful high concept pitch, “it’s Groundhog Day meets Scream”, the movie benefited from an extremely polished script and an absolutely stellar performance by Jessica Rothe. The film went on to do shockingly well at the box office so a sequel was inevitable, but it’s difficult to grasp what exactly they were going for with Happy Death Day 2U.
Happy Death Day 2U begins promisingly enough. We’re reintroduced to the time loop concept through Ryan Phan (Phi Vu), who finds himself in a situation similar to that of Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) in the first film. Through the zappy, obnoxious dialogue, lip service is paid to the multiverse, alternate realities and a number of intriguing sci-fi concepts. However, just when things are about to get interesting the movie shifts back to Tree’s point of view and becomes a fairly standard rehash of the first one, although this time set in an alternate dimension.
Tree’s journey in the first film was fun because she was a legitimately terrible person and watching her suffer was amusing. In the sequel, however, she’s lost her edge and apart from one pretty hilarious suicide montage the story lacks the calculated lunacy of the previous entry. Worse still, the slasher movie conceit has been all but abandoned, which leaves the central whodunnit mystery a thin and unsatisfying concoction. This wouldn’t be so bad had the new additions worked, but a streak of dumb, broad comedy (replete with zany French accents of all bloody things) has replaced the stabby shenanigans. Oh, and remember the sentimental claptrap from the first film? Well, it’s returned threefold and is truly painful.
On the upside Jessica Rothe is still fantastic, and honestly deserves to be in a better film than this one. She fully commits to every moment – even the wretchedly mawkish ones – and is a delight. The support cast are mostly fine, with the science nerds providing some chuckles, but it’s all in service of a script that seems unsure of what it wants to be and consequently ends up being a whole lot of noisy nothing.
Hardcore but undiscerning fans of the first film might find something to enjoy here, but the rest of you are probably better off skipping Happy Death Day 2U and staying in to watch Russian Doll instead.
Black metal is one of the most puzzling and antisocial music genres to exist on the face of this planet. Seemingly designed to be as harsh, tuneless and borderline unlistenable as possible, it makes one wonder ‘who in the name of the Dark Lord Satan would create this screeching noise and why?’ Lords of Chaos does its best to answer that question, and manages to be pretty bloody entertaining along the way.
Lords of Chaos is the true(ish) story of Euronymous (Rory Culkin) a twitchy but ambitious young man who forms a band called Mayhem in Norway in the 1980s. The band soon garners a reputation for being the darkest of the dark, particularly after the original lead singer blows his head off with a shotgun; and Euro uses this notoriety to open his own record store and start his own music label. Enter Varg Vikernes (Emory Cohen) a former Scorpions-loving poser now death-obsessed madman, who forms an uneasy and competitive friendship with Euronymous that begins with admiration, mutates into jealousy and ends in bloodshed. Plus a shitload of churches are going to get burned down before the credits roll on this bad boy.
Despite the grim subject matter, Lords of Chaos is actually quite fun for most of its runtime. Culkin’s wry, knowing voiceover gives some of the grimmer moments levity, and the interplay between the characters trying to outdo one another by being darker-than-thou is frequently hilarious. The self-proclaimed Black Circle are, essentially, a pack of cocky little pricks, but director Jonas Akerlund doesn’t attempt to lionise these long-haired doom groupies but rather lets their story play out with little judgement, just observation. Of course things do get quite nasty, particularly in the third act, which is to be expected. This isn’t a happy story and Euronymous warns us from the jump that “this will end badly.”
Performance-wise it’s pretty much a two-hander between Culkin and Cohen, both of whom manage to be at turns sympathetic and just plain pathetic. Sky Ferreira also shines as Ann-Marit, photographer and sometime groupie, giving empathy and depth to a role that could have played as thin and thankless in lesser hands.
Ultimately, Lords of Chaos is a bit of a niche proposition, taking a look into a world that most people neither know nor particularly care about. However, if you can get past that barrier to entry, there’s an intriguing and well observed exploration of a genre and subculture that is strangely insular and perversely fascinating. If that sounds like your jam then you and Lords of Chaos will get along like a church on fire.