and now we get to the rip o’ the week for the deservedly ignored “zombie” film of late 2009, carriers.
i thought about going to see this in the theatre. i am so glad i didn’t.
i was chris pine’d out after living through the great publicity storm of 2009 about the new star trek movie. i had seen just about enough of his chin and eyes — and certainly read enough colorful descriptions of the rest of his physique — to leave me feeling perfectly contented that i hadn’t seen star trek and had no plans to do so.
but…i really just couldn’t resist carriers. it looked so perfectly my type of thing, right?
yeah — it’s an almost total loss. the trailer is the coolest thing about it. hell, the dude from csi or law and order or svu or whatever the hell one of those police procedurals that i don’t watch who is in the trailer is more worth watching than any of the putative “leads,” none of whom are intelligent or likeable. i can’t even say that chris pine does his best because i have no idea what his best looks like; i only hope it isn’t as wooden and half-dimensional as this. if it is, the star trek movie must either have been a total joke or totally depended on the secondary characters.
in theory, the story is quite simple: the movie opens with four young people — two men; two women — fleeing south, trying to escape a nameless “disease” which has apparently decimated the rest of the population of the united states.
straightforward, right? steal your vehicle of choice; load it with goodies; head south; lock yourself down ’til the bad stuff is over sounds like a plan to me. and it is — it’s a good and a great plan and it has worked well for movies as diverse as road warrior, waterworld, and resident evil 3. you’d think it was pretty much paint-by-numbers now — and i think that’s part of the problem here.
it is paint-by-numbers: there’s the “studly older brother with a troubled past and a bad temper;” there’s the “intellectual younger brother;” there’s “studly older brother’s girlfriend who is the only one who can keep him under control;” and then there’s “selfish random chick we picked up ’cause younger brother thinks she’s hot.” i may be being a bit crude — and cruel — here, but, really, the characters don’t lend themselves to any deeper interpretation. they’re pretty much that. and it was more fun to watch the same group of characters fight off over-friendly german shepards in the breed.
one of the major problems with this movie is that at no point did the screenwriter (or writers; i understand they are brothers) sit down to figure out the details of this dread ailment that’s meant to be killing everyone. or, if they did, they didn’t let the rest of us in on it. is it airborne? air and blood? just blood? blood and other bodily fluids? does it die in the air? does it survive on surfaces? do you have to be touched? or does it take something like a scratch or a bite? if humans are infected at something like 100% infection and 99% mortality, what about animals?
it seems from the beginning of the movie that it would take direct contact with an infected person or with something they have touched in order to be exposed; but these rules get looser and looser as the movie goes on until they’re finally just a joke. the characters wear gloves and masks most of the time (the kind of light air filter masks you wear when you’re cleaning out a dusty attic), but they’re more like fashion accessories than actual anti-viral aids. no-one seems to have thought of the problems of using regular household equipment to kill or protect from a hitherto unknown virus; you’d’ve thought that doing some research into the early days of aids, hanta, or ebola work would’ve fixed that problem. and that’s the sort of thing that can’t happen if the movie’s going to be any good. while i agree absolutely that you can make this kind of movie 100% to formula (the first resident evil movie is a prime (and enjoyable) example), the formula has to be followed; there have to be rules and you can’t decide you don’t like them just because it isn’t convenient right now.
the other problem is that the movie shies away from anything too serious. it sets itself up with some serious considerations right in the beginning — with the man and the girl in the car asking for help; they turn out to be a “clean” man and his infected daughter, trying to get to an army base where they hear there may be a cure — do our “heroes” help them? avoid them? kill them and take their stuff? but it dodges all of them, right down to becoming absolutely laughable when our four “heroes” stumble into an abandoned condominium complex and decide to stay the night. the complex turns out to be inhabited by a bunch of radiation-suited survivalist geeks who decide that the boys can leave — but the girls have to stay.
part of the issue with this is that it’s a really obvious rip of the same damn sequence — except soldiers, not survivalists — from danny boyle’s 28 days later and it’s always better not to remind your audience of your superior competition. in 28 days later, the situation is sober, meaningful — and treated that way by writer, director, and performers. there is a real threat to selena and hannah when they arrive at the army-fortified house outside manchester; the commanding officer, major west, isn’t quite out of control of his men, but he has promised them free access to any un-infected women they find. selena and hannah are the only two so far, so they’re for it as far as he’s concerned. the only other member of the party, jim, is given a choice: he can either accede to what’s going to happen to the women he’s been travelling with, or he can be put under restraint and, eventually, back outside with the infected.
in that movie, the sexual threat to the women is part of a larger picture of how the world has broken down under stress; we have to believe that none of these people would behave this way “in real life” but under these circumstances they feel excused or justified or allowed to indulge themselves any way they can. action at the fortified house run by major west takes up about the last quarter of the film and some major character development for selena and jim, particularly. there’s serious physical threat to both the women — but next to no nudity. what there is — very little, as selena and hannah are forced to bathe — is awkward, humiliating, coldly lit, not sexual or enjoyable. several of the soldiers even seem to be increasingly uncomfortable; none of them going so far as to argue with the arrangement, but instead edging out of the room, fading into the background, or finding urgent tasks to do elsewhere.
in the case of carriers, the absolute same scenario means nothing. it’s rubbished. instead, it’s used as an excuse for cheap titillation when the survivalists in the condo make the girls strip — ostensibly to check for signs of disease; really obviously to show off piper perabo’s six-pack. (and it is painfully obvious as the camera lingers on the breasts and hips of both girls — inasmuch as they have any.) one of the girls proves to be infected and everyone leaves, despite guns, stress, and adrenalin-levels on all sides that should have turned the parking lot into a bloodbath.
there’s more and it does get worse — right down to a closing voice-over that should have been strangled at birth, but there’s really only so much energy i can muster for razoring apart something that was such clear and obvious crap it really just mocks itself.