Director – Neil Marshall
Writer – Neil Marshall
Starring – Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, David O’Hara, Craig Conway, Malcolm McDowell
Doomsday, from writer/director Neil Marshall, is the kind of film that is there to simply fill up an empty slot pre-summer blockbuster season, a film that takes a well trodden story, adds nothing much new to it and throws in a big-budget and a course of ridiculous scenes resulting a mediocre and throwaway couple of hours.
27 years after a virus outbreak has taken over Scotland, the long-time quarantined area is found to contain survivors and a possible cure. The government then proceeds to send in a team of tactical officers to survey the area and find the cure to the virus which has threatened to take over the rest of the country.
Take Mad Max, 28 Days Later and add a dash of I Am Legend and you’ve pretty much got an idea of what Doomsday is aiming to be. Some would take all of these things as references where others will see them as simply trying to be those films. Marshall’s previous feature The Descent, which I think is one of the best horror films of the last 10 years or so, he had both critical and fan success with. But Doomsday just goes to prove that success in one finitely defined genre doesn’t mean you’ll have it in another, more genre-mashing work. Marshall’s usual gory mentality is still present in this film, predominantly in the scenes or moments in which the film works, but the flare seems to have been removed. This seems like the director’s attempt to break into true Hollywood action fodder and it’s sad to see his more independent roots disappear back into the soil. Hopefully just for now, anyway.
Once the introduction section of the film is over, which admittedly is really quite interesting because of the way they go about doing it, we arrive at the part which tries to tell two parallel storylines at once; one about the tactical team in Scotland trying to find the cure and one in England, a political-style storyline which involves trying to stop another outbreak of the virus from occuring. Although the storylines undoubtedly go hand in hand the attempt to tell them both works against the film rather than for it, it’s simply too much to tell in just the one movie and this makes the ending feel rushed and unsatisfying once the two storylines inevitably confront one another. We are never really quite sure who to root for; the finding of the cure and getting out of the zone safely within the time limit or the power-hungry man who wants to take over England. The film never allows us to pick a clear side because it’s too busy trying to make us care about both.
The film overall also isn’t sure what type of film it wants to be. Outwith the fact that it’s a genre mash-up of sorts it also aims to be both realistic and over-the-top at the same time. It asks the questions; what if? What if there was an actual virus outbreak and quarantine of an entire country occurred? And it’s an interesting question to ask, one which you would hope is tackled in as fitting a way possible. However it’s so ridiculous and so over the top to be taken even remotely serious so its ideals are kind of confused. There’s some fun to be had in those scenes, most of that from the scenes involving Marshall’s aforementioned skill at using gore, and there are a whole series of wild-and-wonderfully-different characters to watch as the hectic mayhem ensues.
A lot of what made Marshall’s The Descent so effective was its sense of intimacy with the characters. You actually cared about them in that film, caring what becomes of them by film’s end. Here the film doesn’t even have a whiff of that, despite an attempt by having the main character’s secret, true motive something to do with the mother she lost when she was a child, and rather it sacrifices that for dumb and ridiculous fight scenes and seizure-inducing editing. Although the action and more specifically the chase scenes are exciting in the basic sense that there’s the quick editing and an overbearing soundtrack, it’s nothing we haven’t seen a million times before.
Doomsday is loud and extremely in-your-face, the equivalent of the type of person who is the centre of attention at a party, performing tricks and telling jokes. The film is no better or no worse than the tons of other ones like it, it does nothing to make this “a must see”, it has none of the heart that the director’s previous work had and the doze of ridiculousness is far too high.