British underground horror writer David Moody made his name by offering the first of his Autumn books as a free download. A novel idea which not only gave him a guaranteed readership from the half a million downloads, but lead to his five book series being recently republished and the subsequent filming of this movie adaptation.
As the name implies, the story is about change. But rather than the shifting of the seasons, it is the decimation of the human race in mere minutes from a mysterious virus. It wipes out billions who suffer horrific deaths as their internal organs liquefy.
As the survivors gather together in small bands, trying to figure out what to do and how to carry on, the cornucopia of corpses rotting around them go through a further transformation – getting up and walking around like animated flesh puppets devoid of all their humanity.
Alarmed by the reanimation of the deceased, a mismatched gang lead by Michael (Brit film staple Dexter Fletcher) heads out of the torn up town towards the freedom of the countryside in search of a large isolated house. There they should be safe and far away from the disease ridden “walkers” or “meat suites” as they have been named.
As the group fight for survival and with each other, all trying to come to terms with the awful events of the past and their uncertain future, they start to notice that the living dead are changing once again becoming more aware, more intelligent and worse of all more aggressive.
Autumn is a zombie movie pure and simple, and falls firmly into the post-apocalyptic realistic and nihilistic category that so many other horrors have before it. All the usual characters, plot points and elements are present with little deviation from formula – meaning any avid zombie fan will be able to see what’s coming a mile off.
Although money has obviously been spent on the make-up and certain key special sets (such as the fire and car strewn highway) the film unfortunately looks cheap, due to the use of low grade camera equipment, lighting, bad transition effects and a dream sequence which looks like it was done on an Atari ST.
All is not lost however, and the slow build of the story which focuses of the human effect of the apocalypse creates fear and pathos giving the international cast plenty of time to develop their characters especially Fletcher and fellow Anglo actor Dickon Tolson.
Most impressive of all however is a film-stealing turn from sadly departed David Carradine, playing an unhinged survivor. Although he doesn’t appear until almost the end of the film, his performance is worth the wait as it’s the best moment in the movie. Proving that there was much more to the kung-fu b-movie actor than many may have thought.
Unlike the recent full-throttle action-packed undead movies full of guns, gore and guffaw’s, Autumn is a more cerebral and emotional horror; with creping tension, stark realism and intellectual elements.
A zombie movie with brains. And everyone knows zombies love brains.
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