Craig has made a plan for what he’s going to do when the zombie apocalypse hits: stock up supplies, hole up until the worst of it has passed, then make a break for an isolated area. When a strain of mutated flu sweeps the country and causes the dead to rise his preparation pays off at first, but even the best laid plans sometimes need changing.
In our post-Shaun of the Dead/Zombie Survival Guide world, most undead movies now attempt to inject a degree of humour or postmodern irony into proceedings, but Plan Z goes in the opposite direction, driving its story with nihilistic hopelessness. Instead of going on a rampage to take out as many zombies as possible and save friends and loved ones from their ravenous jaws, Craig’s biggest challenge is trying to shut out the screams of the dying as he crouches barricaded in his flat. He silently justifies his decision to isolate himself, the rules of his plan echoing in his mind like some survivalist mantra, along with his belief that trying to save people will ultimately prove futile. “We’re not the fucking A-Team,” he declares after a friend tries to convince him otherwise.
The film acknowledges what many of us who have devoted thought to the subject might not wish to accept, that rather than life in the zombie apocalypse becoming both a culmination and vindication of a lifetime of watching horror movies, the entire experience would actually be absolutely terrifying. The first time Craig encounters a zombie (and a lone one at that) he runs away and has to psyche himself up to go back and face it, and it’s only with greater practical experience that his courage rises.
The film gets by with very little in the way of practical effects, instead making the inventive decision to use sound rather than gore. The gruesome auditory effects inspire your imagination to fill in the gaps with visceral imagery, craftily tricking your mind into thinking what’s shown is far more brutal than what you actually see. Shaky camerawork adds to the frantic intensity of action scenes, while any lulls in violence don’t rely on jump scares to keep you enthralled, but utilise pervading tension to the extent that the creak of a floorboard is enough to ratchet up the apprehension.
Each character gets brief flashbacks to times before the infection hit, not for any real narrative significance, but as appreciation of basic human moments. Insignificant and unmemorable at the time, they are what remains of the humanity that is now a shattered memory, forever beyond anybody’s grasp to ever reclaim. All that’s left is a world so swiftly run down that people soon truly appreciate the simple pleasure of functioning electricity or the orgasmic bliss of a hot shower.
In a world as awash with independent zombie movies as the films themselves are with the ravenous undead, Plan Z is a standout entry from its bleak and uncompromising vision. You are, like its characters, instilled with a sense of grim satisfaction for making it to the end.
PLAN Z / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: STUART BRENNAN / STARRING: STUART BRENNAN, MARK PAUL WAKE, BROOKE BURFITT, VICTORIA MORRISON, EUGENE HORAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW