Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mutants (2009)

Not to be confused with other films to bear the same name (like the cheap Michael Ironside flick the same year), Mutants is a French horror film with fairly astounding production values surrounding an admittedly derivative plot that does it no service. As you might guess from looking at the poster, this is a zombie flick, even if these zombies are actually genetically altered cannibals who seem to be technically alive. If that sounds like 28 Days Later, well that's because it really is. The makeup is more impressive here, with transformation sequences that rapidly become the highlight of tension, but if you were to establish that this were set in the same universe as Danny Boyle's cult fave, or Stephen King's The Stand, few would discern a difference. Said scenes of atrocious mutation and mutilation have also been compared with The Fly, which I can also see to an extent.

At any rate, there is much positive to be said for Mutants. Filmed in the highlands of the French region Picardy, the wintry blues and whites of the film give it a tremendous cinematic appeal that instantly hooks the viewer into its stark struggle for survival. The music is well matched to the events, from spikes of eerie ambiance to sweltering post-rock climaxes. The gore is delivered to a satisfying degree, and the makeup job for the mutants is fantastic, especially where it involves the male lead (Marco) played by Francis Renaud. The acting is in general tense and believable, even if there are a few moments at which I want to strangle the female lead Sonia for her decisions. Part of this is due to a twist in the plot, but's well into the 21st century, people, and we know what to do with zombies. Without giving details of the plot away, let's just remember that no undead should be suffered to live. Even if this is not technically an 'undead', you know what to do with that gun. No excuses and no exceptions.

On the other hand, the entire direction of the film's plot becomes predictable within short order. There's a bit of a 'reveal' in there that, once it happens, completely gives away the finale. As well executed as the acting and technical side of Mutants is, I still couldn't help feeling underwhelmed by the story. It's fucking 2009, and we've done this to death already. If you can't come up with a creative (Fido) or warmly comedic (Zombieland) take on the genre, or go really, really big, then you'd might as well go home. The only thing distinct about David Morlet's film is the location in which its set. Candy for the eyes, if not the mind. Also, I felt that a few of the other survivor characters introduced in the film were a bit one-note and unsympathetic, and it really breaks down the suspension of disbelief. You'd think that more of the humans would cling to one another and work together to survive...but about half of these seem to exist only to rack up a higher body count.

At any rate, this isn't a bad way to kill an hour and a half, especially for less demanding horror/gore fans who adore tripe like the Resident Evil series or the lackluster 28 Weeks Later. With a better script involving more twists and turns and perhaps a touch of originality, Mutants might have turned into a top flight foreign horror franchise. But no matter how hard the actors and cameramen try to deliver here, and they do, quite hard, the movie's potential is held in check by its lack of surprises. Watch it for the cinematography, music and performances, but if you're interested in something far more unnerving, interesting and memorable in French horror, go straight for Inside (2007) or Martyrs (2008) instead.

Verdict: Indifference [6/10]

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