The year is 1865 and on the battlefield of the American Civil war, whilst shooting down solders from the south, Edward Young (Mark Gibson) sees one of them somehow rise back up from the dead. This soulless monster – seemingly unable to die – disturbs Edward. However he is unaware that this strange and unsettling phenomenon will end up tearing his world apart.
Years later and the undead outbreak has ravaged the land in which Edward lives. Having been forced to kill his own wife after she turned, he abandons his home to look for his son who has disappeared. On the way he attempts to learn all he can about the ravenous walking dead.
Plunged into a world of ‘kill or be killed’ Edward fights daily against the horde of zombies that have decimated the population. They are all around him making it difficult for him to retain his own humanity in this new world. It all appears hopeless and without meaning.
With only his dark thoughts and somber musings as his companion, which he documents daily in a journal. It seems all is lost until he meets another survivor, taking his journey on a whole new path of discovery to the true origin of the outbreak and its possible end.
Setting a zombie movie straight after the American Civil War is a novel idea. Exit Humanity earns points straight away for trying to innovate within a genre that is currently as lifeless as its main monsters.
Writer and director John Geddes doesn’t simply sit back on his innovative setting however, crafting a stylish and imaginative movie which uses Edward’s journal as a framing device with a constant voice over – by Brian Cox no less – and chapter headings to separate the story.
This device works wonderfully, particularly at the start of the film when Edward is alone in the hellish 19th Century land of the dead. With little dialogue save the omnipotent narration, we watch Edward at his darkest hour; suicidal and homicidal, haunted by flashbacks of his once happy family life and forced to choose life over death to search for his son.
Mark Gibson is captivating in the lead, truly commanding the screen along with your sympathy and attention during the early scenes. They delve straight into the main theme of the film, which is the loss of humanity in times of horror and hardship, while also setting the main character and rest of the movie up perfectly.
Geddes mixes animation sequences with live action, introduced through the pictures in Edwards book which again adds an interesting and stylish element to the film. This also helps to save it from simply recycling the conventions and clichés of other zombie horrors.
If there is a down side to Exit Humanity it’s that the second half is not as powerful or original as the first.
Once Edward finds other survivors and we are introduced to the evil ex-army men that experiment on prisoners (in the search for a cure) the film starts to feel more familiar and as the plot becomes slightly too conveniently tied together. Adding to this, the plot then becomes over-explained and here is a slight feeling of disappointment that the innovation couldn’t have lasted throughout.
However, this is a minor quibble as overall Exit Humanity is an excellent zombie movie. It offers up a welcome and well executed twist on the genre in its setting and stylization, whilst still delivering all the expected elements too.