Thursday, August 6, 2009

Autumn (2009)

A few years ago I had the pleasure of reading David Moody’s melancholic zombie novel, Autumn. It was both thought-provoking and frightening, relying on its solid character development to make readers really care about the three main characters. Moody’s first few pages about a virulent virus that wipes out 99.9% of the population grabbed me immediately before moving into the novel’s more character-driven focus.

Since I had been such a fan of Moody’s novel, I was very much looking forward to the film adaptation. Autumn is a different kind of zombie story, not your typical story featuring zombies craving brains or flesh. I was drawn to its unique style within the novel, but could that style be replicated on screen?

One beautiful autumn day the whole world goes to hell. In a matter of minutes a vicious virus has killed billions of people and left only a few survivors. In one particular town, survivors meet in a building as the world around them falls apart. Dead people lie rotting about the streets and the survivors know that their meager supplies won’t last forever. One morning the survivors suddenly discover that the dead have risen and are walking aimlessly about. They don’t seem to pose a threat, but none of the survivors wants to get too close.

Finally, three survivors – Michael (Dexter Fletcher), Emma (Lana Kamenov) and Carl (Dickon Tolson) – decide that can’t stick around the city anymore and head into the country to find more isolated digs. They wind up at an old farmhouse that seems to be far away from the undead. Yet, it appears that whenever they make any noise, like driving cars or running a generator, the undead are attracted to the sound. Also, the undead appear to be getting smarter and meaner with each passing day…

I was really hoping that this indie film would preserve the feeling I had when reading the book Autumn, but, alas, it just wasn’t meant to be. This Autumn is sloppily filmed, poorly edited and is pretty much a big mess. Even if you haven’t read the book and are just looking for a good ol’ zombie yarn you will be sadly disappointed in Autumn.

First of all, the opening scenes were some of the most anticlimactic I’ve ever seen in a post-apocalyptic movie. Billions of people are dying every second and this slo-mo intro is the best they could do? The main characters aren’t even properly introduced, instead we sorta-see (the editing makes it jumpy and choppy, so you’re not really sure who or what you’re seeing) where they were at the time of the virus outbreak. To catch a viewer’s attention you really need a strong intro, and Autumn’s was extremely weak…and the movie just went downhill from there.

So, not only was the story poorly set up, but there is no attempt to even get to know the three lead characters! One of the biggest strengths of the novel was that we got to know each of the characters, making us care about what happened to them. This film, on the other hand, takes no time out to even develop the characters, therefore I didn’t give a lick what happened to them. All we see are the characters having conversations with each other, but that just doesn’t shed enough light on who they are, who they lost and what they went through. I usually don’t like voice-over narration in films, but in this instance it definitely would have helped at least introduce the characters and their situations. Without getting a feel for the characters, I didn’t really care what the zombies did with them, which killed any potential tension and made the whole film drag.

The whole story, written by Steven Rumbelow (who also directed) suffered because it wasn’t properly set up and the characters were never developed. After those two things happened I quickly lost interest in the film. I think that Autumn is a very internalized and isolated type of story, so it would be hard to adapt it to the screen. On the other hand, I just don’t think the screenplay was constructed carefully enough and the horrible, haphazard editing definitely detracted from any of its good points. The entire film just lacked cohesiveness and a well-executed plot. With so many things against it, it didn’t help that the film’s pacing was very slow and created lots of boredom.

Another negative thing I must mention about the picture was the atrocious sound quality. I could barely hear what the actors were saying so I would jack up the volume, but the next scene would feature some horrible music (oh, goodness, don’t get me started on the awkward score – none of the music throughout the film made a lick of sense – one scene it felt like I was listening to the score for Star Wars and the next scene felt more like the music from Britney Spears’ Crossroads movie…blegh!) that almost blew out my speakers! Filmmakers – get your audio levels corrected before sending out your films!! It’s annoying as all hell to have to turn up the volume to hear dialogue but have to turn it down again during the next scene when the soundtrack BOOMS!

I wholeheartedly support indie films, but only ones that are actually GOOD and worth your time. There are just too many things wrong with Autumn to even tepidly recommend it. Not even a small role featuring David Carradine (the film is dedicated to his memory) can help this film or make it watchable. Though I felt the makeup of the zombies (or “Meatsuits”) was pretty decent (especially a scene featuring an old woman tied to a bed), overall it still looked amateur. Besides the rotting undead, there’s not many scenes of gore or carnage besides a group of zombies eating a dog. Now, I went into the film not expecting to see much blood, but after being bored for over an hour and a half I was expecting a little something-something to spice things up…but sadly things were never kicked up a notch.

Skip this sad excuse for a film and go read David Moody’s Autumn novel instead! You’ll be much more entertained!

Buy the book on Amazon!

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