Night Eats the World
Directed by: Dominique Rocher
Written by: Jérémie Guez, Guillaume Lemans, Dominique Rocher (screenplay) Pit Agarmen (novel)
Featuring: Anders Danielsen Lie, Golshifteh Farahani, Denis Lavant,
Sigrid Bouaziz, David Kammenos
Sam goes to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment party in Paris just to pick up a few of his belongings, specifically his music tapes, but when he gets there the party is in full swing and Fanny is too busy with friends and her new boyfriend. After locking himself in her bedroom so he can find the tapes he falls asleep. Awaking in the morning something has happened, there is no one in the apartment, it is wrecked and there are bloody smears on the walls. Sam walks to the door to figure out what has happened but soon he will wish he had not.
It is often said the Shaun of the Dead was a love-letter to George Romero well Night Eats the World is easily a big soppy love-letter to 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead (remake), and various other Usain Bolt zombie horror stories, there is even a small tribute to my favourite zombie ever, Bub, playing a fairly central part in the story. This is not to say it is a bad thing but if you a familiar with the trope, I feel many viewers will be, then you’ll recognise scenarios, frights and the basic premise. Again this is not a bad thing but it does lead to a game of ‘oh I saw that in’ or ‘they did that better/worse in this film’.
Casting aside the who, whats and whys, which all good zombie films should do, and getting to the action and set-up of the story whilst cleverly foreshadowing the coming events starts the film on a good footing and the whilst we are in plus terrioritory the makers then say ‘What would an ordinary person, with no real survival skills (nearly all of us) do?’ and they try to answer it sensibly too. Sam is no genius, he’s clever enough to know that the scabby bloody messes are no longer his friends and neighbours and want to kill him and he is smart enough to know that if he can lock them out of the apartment block he’ll be reasonably safe. He is stupid enough to try and get a cat from outside though – I wonder what stupid thing I’d do if I managed to survive (which I would not)?
Norwegian actor Anders Danielsen Lie plays Sam releastically and you believe from his reactions and the way he behaves this event has really happened. How he occupies the huge amounts of time he has is cleverly answered and is a question that no one asks in these type of films. After all if you make yourself safe and secure that is exactly what you’d do, stay safe and secure, so many films end up with the protagonists doing ludicrous things that lead to disaster. Not Sam, he’ll stay safe, make avant garde art music, listen to tapes, respectfully lay victims to rest, because he’s a decent human not a monster that all survivors turn into immediately in US films, and like all of us, start to hear things and let his imagination carry him away.
In truth you need a strong actor to carry the story because it is more or less just that character, Danielsen is good enough to do this – even though he is in fact a full time medical doctor and only acts part-time you’d never know it. He sells the situation and let us be honest, the situation is ridiculous and has been sold to us so many times before. So it is all credit to him, director Rocher and the writing team. This could have been so much a familiar path I’d have stopped watching.
The buckets on the roof are straight out of 28 Days Later but why not, it worked in that film and works for this story too. The zombies are very much World War Z, Dawn of the Dead (remake) and although I don’t like sprinters, they make no sense at all for reasons I cannot be bothered to go into here, but to make them silent was a stroke of geninus.
I must mention the arrival of Denis Levant who now is my favourite zombie, trapped in the lift he cannot get to Sam so Sam uses him as companion sitting and talking to him. I will not spoil how that ends but it truly is original in its own way and definitely not what I was expecting.
The arrival of Golshifteh Farahani signals the end of the section of the story we would guess we were stuck in and takes Sam in a new direction and the twist to this part, whilst not original, was well played and actually made perfect sense due to what led to it.
Night Eats the World tries to take a tried and frankly worn-out genre and give it some new clothes. It does not quite manage this as well as ‘The Battery’ which I recommend but it comes close. There are too many, seen it before moments, but the acting and real menace of the undead and the situation and how it is dealt with do give it a good spring cleaning at least.
Anders Danielsen Lie is a charismatic lead, the story leads him to some interesting places without it being too silly or annoying and reacts in a fairly realistic and grounded manner. Which considering this is a film about dead people coming back to life and devouring the living is praise.
The direction moves the story along, funnily enough we don’t get too many zombies and there is peril throughout that is handled and presented well.
All in all a better zombie movie – and considering the vast libaries of DVDs dedicated to this horror-trope most of which should really be forgotten about that is praise indeed. Would I go out of my way to watch it again? Probably not but if it was on TV and flicked onto it, I would not flick to the next channel.
As sidenote my copy of this was dubbed which I don’t like, but the dubbing was fairly good and it did not sit uncomfortably with me, I would have preferred the subtitled film but I got what I got. Annoyingly I thought I try the get my hands on the novel it is based on La Nuit a Dévoré le Monde by Pit Agarmen appears not to be available in English print. I would have liked to see what it was like.