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October 10th, 2010

Autumn

Director: Steven Rumbelow
Writers: David Moody (story), Steven Rumbelow (screenplay)


Review by Dan Collacott

When it comes to mainstream horror, zombies and apocalypse have proved to be a marriage made in heaven. The success of the Dawn of the Dead remake and 28 Days Later films means that zombies have climbed out of their cheap schlock horror VHS boxes and firmly chewed their way into modern culture, more than holding their own with their sex obsessed vampire cousins.

When it comes to the cult underbelly of zombie fiction Autumn author David Moody is an established surfer of the undead zeitgeist. His last book Hater drew the attention of Hollywood director Guillermo del Toro who is helping Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) adapt it to the big screen. Autumn the film however predates Hater and subsequently doesn't have such lofty backing or endorsement. What we are left with then is effectively a zombie B-Movie with far loftier aspirations, in fact B-Movie is the wrong term as this feels more like a made for TV film. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it does after all have Dexter Fletcher as one of it's main stars and a creepy cameo from late film legend David Carradine to boast of.

The story surrounds a small group trying to survive following a horrific viral event that has wiped out billions of people within seconds. The film's beginning is probably its main weakness as the pacing, dialogue and general introduction to the situation is scattered all over the place like dismembered limbs. The film only really comes into its own when three of the main protagonists Carl (Dick Tolson), Michael (Dexter Fletcher) and Emma (Lana Kamenov) leave the city for the perceived sanctuary of the country. It is this dynamic and subsequent plot thread that is the most compelling and interesting portion of the film.

Autumn ticks most zombie fiction boxes, from the struggle to come to terms with the destruction of civilisation, to the general survival and threat offered up by those pesky undead. One of the best scenes in the film is a dialogue free moment, a week (or so) after leaving his dead wife and daughter in each others arms, Carl returns to the City to see if they have risen again. The sense of relief and grief are intoxicating when it transpires his loved ones have remained inert corpses, although you never find out why they haven't joined the ranks of the 'walkers'.

For a low budget film the zombie make up and general acting of the undead is superb, the fact that there are few gory and contrived zombie attacks is probably more a relief than anything, although that doesn't stop a cute pooch getting eaten though! In fact every element you would want from a good zombie movie is present here, the only thing that really undermines this film is the feel that certain scenes and sections have been undercooked and the dialogue is a little turgid in places. I am not familiar with director Steven Rumbelow's work but there are patches within this film that you can see what he was striving for and I'm sure when armed with more time and money he could have pulled this off.

I think if it was halved into two parts and better cut together it could have been a more accomplished movie, that aside I was quite satisfied with what I saw. Fletcher and Lana give very competent performances as Emma and Michael and in the second half of the film Dick Tolson gets to grip with his character also. Aside from a superb cameo from Carradine the ensemble cast are largely pointless and peripheral, although the guy playing the disturbed clown is melodramatic and convincing enough to carry those scenes for a while.

The first review on IMDb of this film is an unfair summary of the film and shouldn't be there, as although flawed this is still a pretty enjoyable film if you can get past the budget constraints and slow pacing.


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