Dir: Chee Keong Cheung. With: Oris Erhuero, Carlos Gallardo, Mark Strange, Katarina Leigh Waters. 115 mins. Cert: 18
It’s been sixteen years since Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later… and just over a decade since its sequel – which is to say a fair while has passed since a homegrown zombie movie scaled up to theatrical proportions rather than shuffling towards video on demand. (Your reviewer retains a soft spot for 2012’s Cockneys vs. Zombies, with its irresistible combination of Richard Briers, anti-gentrification wisdom and Chas Hodges theme tune, but that was always bound for regular post-pub rotation on the Horror Channel.) This legitimately widescreen indie endeavour – in which emerging tyro Chee Keong Cheung curates apocalyptic visions of Albion on interesting Rochdale and Glasgow locations – is finally undermined by rookie errors, but otherwise takes a half-decent shot at using its modest budget to fill that gap.
If anything, Cheung displays that fanboyish tendency to give the audience more than they might actually need. He opens with a jolting barrage of hyper-grim imagery grabbed from anywhere and everywhere; his attack scenes pile on splatter and ear-splitting howls in a manner that leaves Boyle, generally regarded as the Zebedee of modern cinema, looking subdued. Such out-of-the-gate enthusiasm is infectious to some degree, but the appealing cleanliness of the initial narrative line – multiracial Special Forces are gradually picked off while retrieving a cure-touting doctor from a biohazard zone – is soon compromised by switchback after switchback.
It peaks too soon: after the relentless, jugular-targeting confrontations of its first hour, some of its invention and force can be felt bleeding out over the long-seeming second. Yet this director is still capable of reaching deep into his spacious if sometimes ungainly tombola of tropes and pulling out a funny, bleak, original image. Amid an appreciable cross-section of the undead (S&M zombies! Community Support zombies!), I particularly enjoyed the zombie postie, found mid-round, rabidly tossing letters into long-abandoned gardens. (We’ve all known mail workers like that.) Cheung shows promise as a shotmaker and stager of blunt-force action; if somebody cares to arm him with a script editor and production grants, we could have a discovery of sorts on our hands.
Redcon-1 opens in selected cinemas from today.