The 6th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival, 8 Nights of Horror, Sci-Fi, Action, and Cult Movies runs Oct 20-27, 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For complete festival info visit www.torontoafterdark.com.
Exit Humanity was preceded by the short film Prick, by director Colin Berry, who was also a special effects adviser on Exit Humanity. Prick is about a serial killer who could go completely undetected in our society. A scary thought, but not the main reason why Prick is such a successful short. In addition to directing, Berry also does the special effects work, and it is nothing short of amazing. A particular scene in a hallway had me shaking my head in disbelief as to how Berry had achieved the otherworldly visuals. Prick does not feel like a short, much more like a preview for something bigger. Keep an eye on Berry, big things are in the future for this filmmaker.
Throughout the last few months of viewing a balanced diet of both mainstream and independent film, I have learned that the gap in the quality of these two types of cinema has been rapidly narrowing. Improved technology, less expensive equipment, and younger, better educated and experienced filmmakers has led to independent cinema becoming much more accessible to mainstream audiences. Exit Humanity is one such film that feels too professional and polished to possibly be an independent film, but it is.
The story takes place during the American Civil War and follows a soldier named Edward Young. We join Young in the midst of an intense battle that quickly becomes a different sort of horror for the soldier, as he is attacked by a member of the undead. After this encounter, we quickly learn that the undead have taken over the countryside and few humans remain. Young has been forced to kill his wife after she became infected, and his young boy has gone missing. Edward Young sets out on a journey to find his son, and to find an exit to this grotesque caricature of what humanity has become.
Exit Humanity was made by Foresight Features, the same crew that gave us Monster Brawl. This time, writer\directer John Geddes is at the helm, with a star studded cast. The people at Foresight once again look to be incredibly well connected, as Dee Wallace, Bill Moseley, Stephen McHattie, and Brian Cox all appear in Exit Humanity. Also of note is the debut of Mark Gibson in the role of Edward Young. Gibson delivers a fine performance as a man who is on the verge of a complete mental breakdown. Although, there are a few too many times when Gibson freaks out to such a degree that Nicholas Cage will most likely be taking notes, but all things considered, even this part of the performance is probably quite realistic given Young’s circumstances. Gibson has done an excellent job of channeling the weight of loss and helplessness that Young must feel, while at the same time maintaining that shred of hope. Adam Seybold is another actor to keep an eye on. His excellent performance as Isaac gives the oppressive atmosphere of Exit Humanity an injection of humour that is sorely needed.
The filmmaking itself is very professional. The cinematography and setting are beautiful. As Geddes noted during the Q&A, the cast and crew went out of their way to ensure that they filmed certain scenes at the crack of dawn and others at sunset, to get the look of the film just right. Also, beautiful animation is used throughout the film due to budget constraints, however, it proves to be an interesting and effective narrative device.
Unfortunately, Exit Humanity has a few writing issues that hold it back from being as good as it should have been. For starters, it really feels like a drama and not a horror film, which is not a problem in itself, except that it will make the viewer wonder if the zombies are really central to the story. A different sort of infectious disease could easily have taken the place of the undead. Sure, zombies may have been used because it seemed like a cool idea, however, cool ideas have their place, typically in much less serious films. The plot of a drama needs to be more intricately woven to be effective. In addition, Exit Humanity seemed to drag on for a bit too long. At two hours, I am not sure that there is enough content in the story to keep an audience entertained throughout.
In closing, I don’t think that Exit Humanity is as ground breaking as another review has stated, although I do see many positives. This does not feel like the work of a relatively new film maker. Geddes gets many things right, but is held back my some pacing and conceptual issues. I have no doubt that Exit Humanity will find an audience. If you enjoy being immersed in bleak unforgiving worlds, where survival is a daily concern, then check out Exit Humanity. In the meantime, I will wait for Geddes to turn out a winner in the future. I am convinced that he will.