Director: Dominique Rocher
Notable Cast: Anders Danielsen Lie, Golshifteh Farahani, Denis Lavant, Sigrid Bouaziz, David Kammenos
Going into the film, I had expectations that perhaps The Night Eats the World would be more like the French Extremism movement that dominated the 00s and gave us some fantastic and experiential films. Maybe it might be a bit more artful, knowing that the film was essentially carried by one actor, but that it would still carry the impact of the violence and nihilism of that movement. The French Extremism powered a lot of fantastic zombie and zombie-esque films (see The Horde, Mutants) so those expectations didn’t seem nearly out of the line going into the film as they did by the time the credits began to roll.
This film does not adhere to the key elements of that movement. The Night Eats the World is very artistic in its development of narrative tone and, quite honestly, it’s refreshing in its approach to the usual zombie apocalypse scenario. Instead of asking the question about how someone would survive, it asks the question about how someone would MENTALLY survive an event like this and that is a strangely interesting question to ask. The film has its fair share of various zombie attack elements, which do feel like par for the course with strong intensity, urgency, and plenty of heart-racing, kinetic beats, but they are not the focus of the film. The focus is looking at the daily routine someone might have to go through to actually survive this apocalyptic surge of zombies. It features, for the most part outside of a couple of sequences, one man trying to live in a world of undead and doing things like rationing his food, finding ways to pass the time, and trying to not let the nightmares seep into his everyday reality.
The execution is where the heart of this film is and it is here that it prevents itself from being too drawn out and slow. Even then, for many zombie film fans, it might come off as too much slow burn. The Night Eats the World really piles on this sense of existential dread to the narrative as it goes, the performances are subtle and effective, and there is an almost dream like quality to many of the elements that even when the plot has large plot holes (like how quickly the zombies spread or some of the strange conveniences of the third act) it almost seems intentional to add value to a much larger question or theme on hand. I would hate to spoil anything about the film further than that, but rest assured, there is such an artful and thoughtful approach to the material that even when there are flaws they do seem intentional.
The Night Eats the World is not a horror film that more casual horror fans are going to love, but it is one that adds a refreshingly interesting slant to the zombie genre. The performances are fantastic, the tone is artsy and dynamic in balancing the horror sequences with the more dramatic scenes of mundane living, and it leaves a lot of a great questions by the time the credits roll. Thus, it gets a hearty recommendation from me. It’s not the usual zombie material and that’s why it succeeds.
Written By Matt Reifschneider