EVER AFTER (ENDZEIT) / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: CAROLINA HELLSGÅRD / SCREENPLAY: OLIVIA VIEWEG / CAST: GRO SWANTJE KOHLHOF, MAJA LEHRER, TRINE DYRHOLM, BARBARA PHILIPP / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The thoughtful and reflective German zombie flick. That’s a sub-genre with more life in it than many of the numerous undead cinematic spawn with which it jostles for attention. Ever After opens two years on from a zombie apocalypse that has overwhelmed the planet. It seems that only two isolated and well-guarded cities have escaped the calamity. The enclave of Weimar survives by imposing an immediate death sentence on anyone who becomes infected, while its more humanist neighbour Jena continues to hunt for a cure that might yet be the world’s salvation.
The film explores this terrible new environment through the eyes of two female protagonists. Vivi is a fragile and grieving teenager, punishing herself with guilt at her failure to protect her sibling when the plague hit. She finds her fate is entwined with that of Eva, an unapologetic kickass young woman willing to do whatever it takes to survive. As both women wrestle with their personal demons, the pair find themselves adrift in the open country between the two cities.
Ever After is, without doubt, an unusual, inventive and surprising film that tries to do something different with what is becoming one of the most overused screen horror tropes. But a determination to try for originality is no guarantee that filmmakers will deliver something truly compelling. And in reality, Ever After is more intriguing than it is arresting.
The film is at its strongest in its quietest moments. As the pair wander through an empty and desolate pastoral landscape, the melancholic atmosphere which permeates everything they encounter draws the viewer in. There’s also a great sense of trepidation as the two drifters approach each new apparently abandoned hamlet, unsure of what they’ll find.
There’s a very deliberate fairy tale ambience (albeit a “grotesque fantasy” one) running throughout the story which works well. It helps to frame the parable elements of the story which explore (without getting too hippy-trippy about it) nature's determination to rebalance the 'yin and yang' of competing pressures when the world slides out of kilter.
The animated corpses pursuing the two women are the frenetic killer zombies of 28 Days Later and not the shuffling human husks of The Walking Dead. This means that the movie’s action sequences are genuinely explosive when they do arrive. But that’s the film’s key problem: trying to meld its own ‘yin and yang.’ There are just too many slow-paced philosophical reflections to keep zombie bloodhounds entertained, and too many of the ravenous undead - and too much gory flesh munching - to keep the art-house indie crowd fully on-side.
You won’t have seen a zombie movie quite like EndZeit. Its existential musings on the nature of the human condition are not the stock-in-trade of grindhouse horror fare, and it’ll keep you off-guard until the low-key finale. But while it’s an interesting experiment in extending the zombie template, it’s not entirely successful and its appeal is likely to remain niche.