Saturday, March 15, 2008

Doomsday (2008, Neil Marshall)

A few years ago, Marshall won the love of horror fans with his scary girls-in-a-cave chiller The Descent. However, those expecting the elemental terror of that film will be sorely disappointed in his follow-up project. Doomsday is a futuristic thriller set in the aftermath of an epidemic that has ravaged Scotland, causing the British government to quarantine that entire country. Decades later, Scotland has become a wasteland, but when the virus rears its ugly head in London, the British government sends a team of soldiers behind the wall to locate a cure. It's not a particularly inspired storyline, and Marshall seems to realize this, as the movie is largely memorable for the random directions he takes. It's one thing that, after arriving in Glasgow, Maj. Sinclair (played by Rhona Mitra) and her team find a band of cannibalistic punks who look like a roving band of extras from The Road Warrior. But then the movie takes a bizarre, Uwe Boll-esque turn after Mitra and company run afoul of a reclusive doctor (Malcolm MacDowell) who lives in a castle and leads a band of warriors who wear armor and ride horses. Finally, Marshall senses that he's backed himself into a corner, so a shiny new Bentley materializes more or less from thin air, and the movie morphs once again, this time into a Cuisinart-edited, shaky-cammed sub-Michael Bay actioner, as Mitra and friends race back to the wall. Trouble is, it's somewhat less fun than it sounds, since although it's odd it's never endearingly crazy enough to truly entertain. In addition, Maj. Sinclair isn't a very compelling hero, because although we're given some background to the character (her mother gave her up so she would escape the original virus), she never really seems to be motivated by anything other than the need to keep the plot moving forward. She's little more than an action figure- even the fact that she lost one of her eyes as a child seems mostly like an excuse for her to have a snazzy robotic one- and while I suppose it's encouraging that movies have progressed enough to have action heroines as one-dimensional as their male counterparts, that doesn't make her all that interesting to watch. Still, if you liked Dog Soldiers (Marshall's pre-Descent film) more than I did, perhaps you'll dig this one too. And David O'Hara's line readings are, as in The Departed, still fascinatingly weird. Rating: 4 out of 10.

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