Monday, 15 August 2016

We All Fall Down (2016)

I like to support independent productions on this blog - as much as I can given my small readership, anyway! - which is why I am disappointed that I didn't much care for this Arrowstorm Entertainment film.

Originally conceived as a web series of eight 8-10 minute episodes, We All Fall Down posits a world in which a plague has turned every adult into a flesh-eating monster.  Let's call them zombies, since the film-makers do, though they're not your traditional kind, as we'll discuss later.  Age 18+ seems to be the cutoff for suffering these effects, but as with The Tribe, I'm not sure how the plague goes about checking the age of its victims.

17-year old Todd is trying to keep his little brother Benny safe in this new world while trying to ignore (a) his own incipient transformation into a zombie and (b) the fact that he's probably gone crazy, since he has hallucinatory arguments with a little girl on a pretty regular basis.

Complicating Todd's plans still further is Matrah, a young woman who's got herself quite the Lord of the Flies thing going on.  She functions as a kind of high priestess to a bunch of feral kids, preaching that the only way to avoid becoming a zombie is through strength, and the way to prove your strength is to kill and eat the zombies.  She wants Benny for one of her followers, a fate Todd is determined to prevent.

So let's get the positives out of the way first, before I complain: We All Fall Down is (on the whole) capably acted, and well shot.  I like its use of sun-drenched blue skies as juxtaposed with the grimness of the world below them.  The early scene-setting is solid.

Alas, then we hit problems.  First is the lack of zombies in the film.  They have one brief appearance early in the film, where we see that they appear to feel pain and can be killed in the same ways as a normal human - like I said, not the traditional kind of zombie - and an even briefer and less plot-relevant appearance near the end.  Other than that, they seem to exist purely to explain where Matrah's group gets their meat.  If you promise me "Lord of the Flies meets the Walking Dead", as this film did, you need to deliver a bit more big Zed action.

Second and more important is the fact that Todd's not a very interesting protagonist, and that the plot tends to happen to him, rather than him driving it.  It's not a terribly effective combination of traits.

Third is the decision to change to a feature film rather than a web series.  In terms of pacing and structure they're quite different beasts which means we've ended up with a film that doesn't flow right: it seems to take a long time to get to the point, and then to wrap up too fast.   I think that more script changes needed to be made for the change in format to really work.

We All Fall Down is an earnest but alas very flawed attempt to deliver on an interesting premise.

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