We’re on the tail end of a zombie craze, so Sky Wang’s Lost in Apocalypse might not be particularly well-timed. Audiences were disappointed by Hollywood’s World War Z, piqued by global smash Train to Busan, and are now quietly drifting out of scene. Like vampires in the noughties, zombies have hit a dry patch. Chinese black comedy Lost in Apocalypse doesn’t achieve the brutality or bite of Busan, but its sincerity and the success of its performers make it as fun a zombie flick as your likely to see in the PG-13 side.
Folks hungry for an energetic pulse-pounding thrill-ride will find Lost in Apocalypse pretty plodding compared to recent zombie flicks. But then, it's not trying to beat or compare with those films. Genre fatigue, along with the boldest entries of the past decade, make Wang’s debut feature look a little, well, derivative. We’ve seen most of this before. Though, to give it its dues, Lost in Apocalypse is a surprisingly funny film, but inconsistently so.
The first half almost hits Shaun of the Dead levels of stony-faced farce, navigating a group of people who don’t really like each other into the close-quarters of a hotel room for a school reunion. Wang’s characters are engineered for a cutting social commentary on social hierarchy, with near-sociopathic young professionals sharing scenes with guys who’ve been thier subordinates since high school. The zombie outbreak occurs and the group of unlikely survivors head down to the garage for a make-or-break attempt at fleeing.
There’s a couple of decent sequences, but the film is hurt by its lack of bite. And that’s not just a lack of gore; Train to Busan barely had any gore but it still had a savagery about it. World War Z too. Lost in Apocalypse feels stunted and a bit lazy by comparison. The one unique concept Wang has, that the zombies cannot sate their ravenous hunger with ordinary food, so switch to human flesh, is glazed over and discarded. Sky seems to take too much pleasure in stitching. together classic zombie sequences. The editing around action and connecting blows is always a bit loose, a bit ‘home movie’, and any gore is always similarly skimpy. Wang’s talent is in high-tension chase scenes, and the film hits a high-note in the subterranean Hotel parking garage it never reaches again.
The second half mixes its signals with the threat of child rape amidst a scarcer number of jokes. Basically it feels like you get on board with one tone, and then the film runs out of humour. A stronger effort is made to evoke horror, intensity, and catharsis even, but it never quite entertains as much as it did in the first hotel room. Considering Wang’s initial class-based dialogue, it feels plain careless that he ditched a promising hunger-cannot-be-sated approach. This might have worked better as a Reservoir Dogs style zombie thriller, but as the run time rolls on, it becomes more and more like every other zombie flick you’ve dodged in the past few years.
LOST IN APOCALYPSE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: SKY WANG / STARRING: MARTIN YANG, MINGYI YANG, E’NAAN ZHANG, RAY WANG / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (US), TBC (UK)