Exit Humanity

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The last thing Edward Young expected when he returned home from the American Civil War was the dead rising from their graves to attack the living, but when his wife and child are taken from him, Edward begins a downward spiral that leaves him with nothing but despair and rage.

The American Civil War is a touchy subject for the undead. Then again it’s kind of a touchy subject for everyone. Those states that fought for the Confederacy say it was about states’ rights, the states that fought for the Union say it was about slavery, and pretty much everyone agrees it was extremely fucked up. I’m not going to get into the long moral debate about the issues surrounding the Civil War because that would take a long time, and I don’t feel like dedicating the next several hours to it, not when I really only like talking zombies, zombie movies, zombie books, zombie video games, and Transformers. No, I’ll leave the Civil War arguments to Facebook, Yahoo comments, and awkward backyard barbeques. I’m only here to talk about the undead involvement in the Civil War and why it’s left a deep shame in the American zombie psyche that permeates to this day. It has nothing to do with which zombie chose which side but has more to do with the fact that we picked sides in the first place. Zombies usually have a strict code when it comes to relations between the living and the dead, but the Civil War was equally divisive among both zombie and human. When the South broke off and became the Confederacy, beginning a war that would nearly destroy the country, zombies took up arms on both sides. No matter what the circumstances, we are never supposed to side with the living, but we failed to come together as a group and ended up fighting right alongside them. It would be years before Northern and Southern zombies could even look at each other such was our shame in siding with the living. Thankfully we’ve managed to move past it these days, the undead union halls having brought us all together again, but it’s still something we don’t care to discuss. Watching a movie set during the time period though, that’s alright.

Our film begins with a message about how the dead have been returning to life all around the United States and people fear this could be the end of existence as they know it. In the midst of all this chaos, an old journal is found that might be a treasure trove of information on how to deal with the undead. The journal was found by Malcolm Young (voiced by Brian Cox), a descendent of the journal’s creator Edward Young. Malcom sets a few things up for the viewer before we go into the story proper and go back to the beginning, where Edward Young is in the thick of the Civil War and gets his first look at the undead. Six years later he’s returned home, hoping to leave the horrors of the war behind him, but when he embarks out on a hunting trip, he comes back to find his wife a zombie and his young son missing. The poor man is forced to shoot his wife and bury her body, going out the next morning to try and find his missing boy. While he goes out searching, Edward decides it’s in his best interest to study the undead creatures roaming the forest, learning as much as he can about them in order to better destroy as many as possible, but for every one he kills ten more rise up behind it, causing Edward to sink into a deep depression. This depression, coupled with his despair over his dead wife and missing child, makes Edward consider suicide as an option, departing a world that seems doomed to end, but a promise he made to his son pushes him forward and he decides to continue on with his life, finding others out in the world who are surviving among the undead as well. More than that though he is about to find something even more important, hope, but not all those still among the living care about hope, some only crave power and see the undead rising as an opportunity to gain it.

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{Edward makes sure he gets up close and personal for his studies}

I honestly thought this was a book after I gave Exit Humanity a watch due to the film’s styling. The movie is presented like you’re actually watching a book. Does that make sense? No, I don’t think it does. The way Exit Humanity is structured is as if you are participating in Edward Young’s journal, the very same one his descendant Malcolm Young found and is now reading to the viewer. Malcolm, whom we never see, reads from the journal at intervals throughout the movie, highlighting exactly how Edward feels as he struggles against a world that has been turned upside down on him. Malcolm’s narration puts the viewer directly into Edward’s head, enabling you to feel the pain and despair he feels at the loss of everything he knew and loved. It was a great move in having parts of the journal read for the audience, and it was great two fold. First was the emotional impact it added to the film, drawing in the viewer by allowing him to be inside Edward’s head. Exit Humanity hinges on the success of its emotional draw, how much the film is able to make you feel for Edward and experience the pain he’s going through, and the narration during some of the more emotional times helps to do just that, make you feel for and with him throughout the film. Brian Cox is perfect as Malcolm, doing a fantastic job bringing you further and further into the movie with his amazing reading, inflecting a very large amount of feeling into his words as he delves into the life of his ancestor of a hundred and fifty years or so prior. Secondly, it set the tone for the movie’s book like atmosphere, setting up right from the beginning that this was supposed to be a journal you were watching in action, replayed from the words a man a century and half ago wrote down.

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{We’re being read the journal almost as he writes, just from many years in the future}

Of course it’s not just the narration that makes this seem like a book, Exit Humanity is also divided into chapters that are set at perfect intervals throughout the movie, and not just chapters like in a DVD menu, but actual chapters in a book. It starts off with a prologue, setting up the story, then moves into Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, so on and so forth, each chapter having a chapter name as well. What was impressive was in how perfect the spacing was in where they broke the chapters apart, each one starting and stopping at just the right moments in the story. You would get just enough time to breathe before going right back down the rabbit hole. The movie was an emotional roller coaster and the breaks in between were the spots that lulled you into a sense of calm before dropping you down the four hundred foot slide. Beyond the perfectly spaced chapters there was also the animated sequences to Exit Humanity. Edward Young is an avid artist and loves to sketch the things he sees in life, those sketches ending up a part of his journal. Every now and again throughout the movie the live action would stop and be replaced by a very artistic animation style, not something cartoonish, but something that resembled basic sketches coming to life, and every time the animation would begin Malcolm would start with his reading from the journal. I loved the animation style they used, the simplicity of the animated sketches working perfectly for the journalistic styling. I really felt like I was watching someone’s journal come to life and it made for an engrossing viewing experience.

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{I wonder where they got the title for chapter 1}

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{Some of the film’s more interesting artwork}

While I loved the book like feeling of Exit Humanity there was one thing that was a resounding success above everything else, the acting talent, especially that of Mark Gibson who plays central character Edward Young. His performance was incredibly powerful, and I’m very surprised he hasn’t been in many other films considering how talented he is. He does such an amazingly fantastic job with his character, and I would put him on the same level as some of the best actors in Hollywood judging by how well he did here. I’ll never understand how actors like Gibson can be over looked when one note, single character hacks like Robert De Niro or Al Pacino keep getting jobs. Say what you want, but the two of them essentially keep playing the same characters over and over again, so I’m not sure why they’ve gotten the reputation for being greats, not when an actor like Gibson is able to do so much with a character, to play him so completely that you at times forget he is just a character. The first thirty minutes of the movie doesn’t even have any dialogue for the most part, just Brian Cox’s narration and a flashback scene, and yet Gibson still does amazing, forcing you to feel his desolation without having to speak a word. He was able to convey Edward Young’s pain so well that your felt your heart go out for him. There are more than a few scenes where his emotions just overpower him, where the torment of losing everything is too much for him to deal with and all he can do is scream to the heavens in impotent rage over circumstances he cannot change, and those scenes are some of the best in the movie thanks almost entirely to Gibson’s performance. It really seemed like the man was in a terrible anguish and his screaming was the only way for him to try and release some of it. I cannot give the man enough credit for how strong his performance was. While I was most impressed with Mark Gibson’s performance, he wasn’t the only one that did a great job. Almost all of the actors are phenomenal, including actress Dee Wallace (Critters, Cujo, The Howling), a woman well known to any fan of horror. I say almost because there was one weak link, and that was Bill Moseley. Moseley’s been great in many of the films he’s been a part of, but his acting style didn’t work for Exit Humanity. It was too over the top for a film that was in no other way over the top. Exit Humanity is a serious horror film with a lot of emotion and a lot of bleak darkness, but Moseley’s portrayal of a nearly insane Confederate general was just too much. It was cheesy in a movie that didn’t require any cheese, a film where cheese actually brings it down a notch. With how awesome everyone else was, I wish they’d gone with a different actor, or at the very least told Moseley to tone it down.

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{Moseley is the only thing wrong with the entire movie}

Though Moseley’s performance was tacky, the rest of the film is not. It’s a very serious film with a harsh and despairing atmosphere that asks questions about what it means to be alive. Exit Humanity takes a look at loss and how it affects us when we feel like we have nothing left to live for anymore. How does one go on in life when there doesn’t seem to be any more reasons to go on? Edward Young is forced to ask himself that question many times as he feels hollow on the inside, wanting to put a bullet in his head and end it all, but refusing to break the promise he made to his son. It was a disheartening look at how a person could deal with things that seem beyond coming to terms with, or how to keep putting one foot in front of the other when all you want to do is lie down and wait for the end to come. In the middle of all this pain and sadness though is a tale of redemption as well, a tale of healing a soul that’s been broken into a dozen pieces. As Edward struggles to push forward despite his wanting to give up, he finds reasons other than the promise he made to his son for living. There are other people dealing with the same pain as Edward, people whose souls are just as broken as his, but together they are able to put the pieces back together and try to find happiness when none seems possible. Exit Humanity was almost just as heartwarming as it was depressing, switching back and forth in a way that left me feeling introspective and emotionally drained. This film is equal parts horror, drama, philosophy, and old school Western. That last one is correct too, as much as Exit Humanity is a horror movie, it’s also very much a Western flick in the same vein as old John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies, just with more heart and a lot more flesh eating.

{This is actually not the saddest scene in the movie}

If you’re looking for a great zombie movie that has more to it than your typical zombie film, something that is serious and has real meat to it, no pun intended, than Exit Humanity is your flick. Beyond it having so much to it in both the story and character departments, it has some amazing effects. The zombies look great and fit the bleak, desolate atmosphere with their black, soulless eyes. When they tear into someone it looks disgustingly realistic and, much like a National Geographic documentary on predators, as revolted as you are it’s impossible to look away. This is an instant classic for any zombie fan.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: John Geddes (Scarce, Hellmouth)

Starring: Mark Gibson (Monster Brawl, Ejecta), Dee Wallace (Cujo, The Howling), Adam Seybold (Ejecta, The Chair), Bill Moseley (House of a 1000 Corpses, Devil’s Rejects), and Brian Cox (Trick ‘r’ Treat, X2)

Written By: John Geddes (Scare, Forlorn)

Released By: Foresight Features, Optix Digital Pictures, Anchor Bay Entertainment, and Vivendi Entertainment

Release Year: 2011

Release Type: Theatrical

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Rotten Heads: Four and a Half Rotten Heads Out of Five

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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