THE NIGHT EATS THE WORLD

★★★

THE HORRORS OF LONELINESS

MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
By Jake Watt
28th July 2018

A man, Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie, ‘Personal Shopper’), arrives at his ex-girlfriend’s Paris apartment to collect some stuff he left behind, only to find a party underway. He falls asleep in a spare room and awakens to find the building deserted (almost) and the city’s population infected by a zombie virus.

Director Dominique Rocher establishes early on that Sam is as immediately aware of his predicament as the audience - he's familiar with the "rules" (only head-shots kill zombies, bites are fatal). There are no news broadcasts or stories behind the outbreak.

Sam is clearly a descendant of Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus from 'Zombieland' - somewhat neurotic, not particularly well-equipped to fight, but brainy and resourceful enough to get by on his own. He presents a refreshingly different mould of survivor.

'THE NIGHT EATS THE WORLD' TRAILER

Based on the novel 'La nuit a devore le monde' by Pit Agarmen, the majority of ‘The Night Eats the World’ follows the intimate details of Sam’s daily routine as he tries to keep himself healthy and sane while barricaded in a vintage Parisian apartment building. Sam’s actions are pleasantly logical: he forages for food, weapons and protective clothing from the other apartments, arranges bowls on the roof to collect water, and gathers books to read.

Other films have touched on the tedium of lone survivors trapped in an apartment during a zombie-ish outbreak, most notably Boris Sagal's 'The Omega Man', the German horror film ‘Rammbock’ by director Marvin Kren, the tense, claustrophobic '[REC]' and Francis Lawrence's 'I Am Legend'. 'The Night Eats the World' unfolds at a glacial pace compared to these films, more concerned with showing Sam chilling out by recording experimental music on a tape deck than actual zombie-splattering action.

Sam isn’t a particularly likeable protagonist. His girlfriend points out that he has trouble talking to new people and, despite craving companionship once the zombie apocalypse strikes, he continues to blow his chances. His strongest relationship is with Alfred (Denis Lavant), an elderly zombie he traps in the apartment’s service elevator. Sam’s loneliness takes obnoxious forms, like angrily drum solos in front of open windows to attract zombies, only to yell at them as they reach for him.

The film poses questions about the nature of humanity and loneliness: is it better to search for companionship and die along the way or remain in one place, scavenging for provisions without a threat of danger from anyone but yourself?

Just like he retreated from the difficulties of life in a big city surrounded by people seeking a connection, Sam now hides indoors to avoid those same people, transformed into monsters desperate to consume him. An intruder, Sarah (Golshifteh Farahani), provides a voice outside his own, but only a glimmer of hope for the present rather than future.

This film is not an action-packed gore-fest (despite high-quality make-up effects), hiding scares around every corner - although there are a few good ones. Instead, it poses questions about the nature of humanity and loneliness: is it better to search for companionship and die along the way or remain in one place, scavenging for provisions without a threat of danger from anyone but yourself?

‘The Night Eats the World’ is intriguing and skilfully made. Although it adds little to the already overflowing canon of zombie-genre tropes, the mood, languid pacing, and performances make up for the derivative setup.

Looking for more Melbourne International Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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