I’m sorry to say this, but zombies are lame. They aren’t scary. They aren’t cool. People are running away from AMC’s The Walking Dead in droves and it doesn’t look to be improving anytime soon. There have been some great zombie movies, sure, but there have been enough misfires over the last 40 years to make even the most devout zombie fans apprehensive. There’s absolutely nothing more washed than coming out with a zombie movie or show in 2018, and to be honest, I would have been totally fine with never seeing another one in my lifetime. Like, I get it. They are either slow or fast and they want to eat my brains. Awesome. For my money, the only zombie I want in my life is the capital-Z Zombie Superbeast who not only digs through the ditches, but also burns through the witches. Does he slam? Hell yeah he does, in the back of his Dragula.
So to say that I was disappointed when I found out that one the review assignments I chose this month involved the z-word would be an understatement. As I handed over my money to Amazon to rent and watch The Night Eats the World, I could feel myself hating the movie before it even began. I scoffed at the premise. I angrily selected “Rent HD”. I snickered at the opening credits. I started watching the film. I realized that I was very wrong.
I loved every second of it.
The Night Eats the World follows Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie) as he enters a raging party being thrown by his ex-girlfriend Fanny (Sigrid Bouaziz) and her new, admittedly much more handsome, boyfriend. He’s there to get some of his old tapes back from her and wasn’t aware that she would be having a party. She begs him to stay and maybe meet some new people. Sam isn’t the best at this whole “being sociable” thing, so he sits on a couch slamming drinks until he manhandles Fanny into telling him where his tapes are. He goes into the room, and either because of drunkeness or a head injury he sustained after running into another partygoer, he decided to lock the door to the room and fall asleep in the chair. As he drifts off to slumberland, we slowly zoom in on the door leading to the party as screams start to erupt from the other side.
Sam wakes up to a blood-soaked, empty apartment. He opens the door to the stairwell, only to see Fanny sitting there with half of her face torn away. She hears him and instinctively pounces, running towards the door and his warm, tasty flesh. As he slams the door shut, you can begin to see the reality of his situation start to dawn on his face. He survived something horrible, and the things outside the apartment want to kill him.
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What follows is 80 minutes or so of one-man survival as we watch Sam gradually clear the apartment building, gather food and supplies, play some homemade musical instruments, befriend a zombie who is stuck in the elevator, almost get killed because he tried to lure in a stray cat, and be attacked by horrific nightmares and watch those nightmares come to life. He has very little dialogue (obviously), there’s very little action (except for a couple of killer zombie chases and attacks), and we never learn anything about his character or what happened to the world (except that, like, the night ate it). So how in the hell did I enjoy this movie so much? It’s simple, really. This movie about the undead was absolutely stuffed with what we need most in this world.
There are some very dark moments in The Night Eats the World, as you would expect. Sam’s downstairs neighbors, who he didn’t know were still alive, ended their suffering with a murder-suicide. We can see that the husband shot his wife in the head, then covered her with a blanket before turning the shotgun on himself. Sam covers the man’s head with another blanket out of sheer necessity (his brains were, um, everywhere). As he searches the apartment, the camera lingers on the hands of the elderly woman who was shot by her husband. Her hands gripped the arms of the chair, wordlessly conveying the fear that she felt in her last moments. She allowed it to happen, but she was still afraid. She was a human with strong human emotions. As a viewer, you are heartbroken that this couple, who have obviously been together a very long time, came to this end. One full of confusion, fear, and loss. It was love that kept them together for all of these years, and it was love that forced this terrible decision upon them.
“Dead is the norm now… I’m the one who’s abnormal”- Sam
Later in the film, the couple start to rot. The smell fills Sam’s apartment, making it almost unlivable. He enters the elderly couple’s home and lifts the woman out of the chair. He walks to the window, about to dispose of her body like just another bag of trash, but then he pauses. This was a human being that deserves respect, not to be tossed out in the road where the hovering zombies will tear her body apart. So, Sam takes her and her husband back to their bedroom. He wraps them in sleeping bags and gently places some of their possessions and pictures around them on the bed. He leaves them there, and tapes up the room so that the smell is contained. This scene, which is played with no dialogue and very little sound at all, is such a touching representation of what it means to be human. Sam, if he would have treated these bodies as he had originally planned, would be no better than the undead monsters roaming the streets.
Some will say that The Night Eats the World is too boring. They will say that not enough happens to hold your interest. They are are wrong. This film, which was directed by Dominique Rocher and was based on the novel by Pit Agarmen, is stunningly beautiful. It’s composition is lonely, just like Sam as he tries to navigate the dangers that surround him. It’s quiet, but not silent. It’s quiet like the sound of a lit fuse. We know that the fuse will eventually run out and our world will erupt into a fountain of fire and fury. The empty streets of Paris are littered with the once-known. The once-human. The point of this film is not the gore or the brutality, it’s about how Sam’s humanity and survival are intertwined. For, if he were to abandon the things that make him who is is, then he hasn’t survived at all. The Night may have eaten the world, but we cannot allow it to eat our souls, as well.
The Night Eats the World is one of my favorite films of the year, and you should do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s an emotional journey that follows one man, but it is also reflected in each of our lives as we try to survive in this brutal world we have created. Fear can make us do crazy things. It can even make us lose the spark that makes us the beings that we once were. Watch this film and be inspired to embrace your fears and to keep your spark lit for everyone around you to see.
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