HERE THERE BE SPOILERS I had high hopes for Doomsday: the trailer looked cool I thought and I’d enjoyed both of writer/directior Neil Marshall’s previous efforts, The Descent and Dog Soldiers, bar a few minor quibbles over character. But horror is not *usually* noted for sympathetic characters and let’s face it, the boys in Dog Soldiers had some killer lines: “So if Red Riding Hood turns up with a bazooka and a bad attitude, I want you to chin the bitch!” Plus The Descent was one of the few horror movies to freak me out so royally I needed to sleep WITH THE LIGHT ON.
I suppose then for me the first red flag to go up was the extended prologue: I’m not big on those anyway, but it starred the redhead I Had A Problem With in Dog Soldiers (yes, the werewolf woman that somehow didn’t need to change when the rest of the werewolves outside did and seemed to exist solely in the story for that really bad PMS joke at the end). I decided I could afford to be charitable however: maybe she’s Neil Marshall’s wife or best friend or something. Besides, it was Saturday and I had beer. I could deal with the redhead. It was pretty clear her role was a cameo; the character would die (or at least be doomed) soon and we could get on with it.
So the prologue about Scotland being infected with the Reaper Virus and being sealed off came and went and we were introduced to Sinclair, the female protagonist and now grown up version of the child the redhead put on the helicopter. She’s now a hardcore policewoman with a fake eye that can look round corners. Plus she’s hot – and I mean really hot. Even I fancied her. Plus her haircut was nice. We are introduced to her for a really long time… And reminded about how her mother sent her to England when she talks to Bob Hoskins outside after blowing away the Perp inside like the hardcore policewoman she is. Even though it was five minutes ago. But okay, okay. Again I’m being a story Nazi. Chill out. We’ve got a gorgeous bird in very tight trousers and the promise of extreme violence to come, not to mention bloody, hideous death via the aforementioned Reaper Virus which has somehow come back… Oh and there it is: some bloke spewing and haemorraging all over the shop in the streets of London. Excellent.
But now we need some politics – and that too lasts a while, plus there’s some CGI of the wall and more on what happened in Scotland. The Prime Minister and some scary Scottish Politician decide what to do – and of course they need Bob Hoskins who in turn tells them our friend Sinclair is The One To Save Us All. She’s going to be part of the crack team they send over the wall into Scotland: some people over there have somehow survived the Reaper Virus, so they *must* be immune – if they can catch one, then they make a vaccine! A couple of problems though: the Scottish have gone feral and it’s all post Apocalyptic Mad Max over that side of the wall…
Now, my father was born in Dundee, so I love the idea of a feral Scotland, not least because he’s mad as a hatter (hi Dad). I also think it’s probably likely that if one of the sections of the UK went tits up like that, the Government would slam a lid on it and seal it off, leaving it to its own devices. As controversial too a view as it is (brace yourselves!), I even enjoyed the first RESIDENT EVIL (if not the latter films). So Doomsday was definitely not without its appeal, even before we have Rhona Mitra in her tight fitting trousers.
However, it rose on my WTF? radar as it went on though, for the following reasons:
It was not differentiated enough from its predecessors. By the time Doomsday came out, we’d had a stack of virus-based apocalypses in films, both American AND British. We’d had all the Resident Evils (or at least two of them), plus 28 Days Later AND 28 Weeks Later as the most obvious – you could even stick in Shaun of the Dead if you wanted to get anal. The spaces in Doomsday then were filled with both Mad Max and Michael Crichton’s Timeline (but more of that in a minute). I know execs ask for “the same… but different” but for me at least, it seemed more of the “same” and not enough of “different”.
The characters were forgettable. I thought Sinclair lacked charisma – and none of the secondaries were particularly colourful or memorable, though Adrian Lester *almost* wormed his way into my affections. The antagonist, Sol, was just plain mental – though fun, I didn’t really get what his problem was (yes I know he and his people had been left to die by HM Government, I mean **besides that**: he seemed to have a pretty good life going on behind the wall, people were worshipping him and stuff – though Sinclair DOES chop his girlfriend’s head off… I suppose that is a little antisocial).
But anyway: I always judge a movie by how well I remember the characters’ names: the better I think the movie, the more likely I am to remember not only who played the character (which is easy enough if the actor turns up a lot in a particular genre, like Sean Pertwee!), but the character’s name FIRST [Quick example: I think “Ripley” BEFORE I think “Sigourney Weaver”, or “John McClane” before “Bruce Willis.”] One of the most interesting things for me then about the characters in Doomsday is I could not remember a single character’s name whilst actually watching it. I had to look on IMDB later – and Sinclair’s name again whilst writing this post. As my husband and I were watching, we were actually talking and asking each other about the characters’ actions, so Sinclair was referred to as “that bird off Life of David Gale”, Adrian Lester was “the guy from Hustle”, Bob Hoskins was “Roger Rabbit guy” and Sean Pertwee was… well, Sean Pertwee. (Dog Soldier IS The Hub’s fave film).
There were too many homages. I never thought I would write that: how can a film have too many nods for horror Geeks like me in the audience? Yet Doomsday seemed to. When the crack team breaks in through the Scottish wall for example in their uber-tank and scope out the place which looks like the Marie Celeste, I believed for a second I was watching Aliens. Add all the Mad Max and Escape From NY stuff and the fact the Scottish Ferals are listening to “Fine Young Cannibals” which was old even by their standards (I think I’m right in thinking they got entombed in 2007 or 8? FYT was an 80s band), I was scratching my head.
I didn’t understand why the Scottish Ferals were cannibals. As the crack team drive their super-duper tank across Scotland, they run over a bunch of cows. There were stacks of them. Wouldn’t it be easier – and tastier – to eat them, rather than Sean Pertwee? Surely he is all gristle??
Doomsday couldn’t seem to decide what it was. Doomsday did not start as it meant to go on in my view: when it began, it did not appear if this was going to be a horror played for laughs – like in Dog Soliders, for example; its strength was its humour; I thought it was hilarious, particularly when Sean Pertwee’s guts are hanging out and Coop shouts: “Then we’ll put them back in, sir!”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think horror *has* to have humour for contrast, plenty don’t and work well. Yet Doomsday started serious and by the end had become a horror/comedy, with bad guy Sol racing in his uber-fast car after Sinclair and friends with his dead girlfriend next to him, only for her head to fly off. He’s then despatched in a classic “Oh shit!” moment in a big explosion. Amusing, but why the inconsistency in tone? A similar thing appeared to happen with the events of Sinclair’s journey: at the start behind the wall it’s all very Mad Max in feel, then moments later she’s in a medieval gladiatorial arena. Whilst an interesting contrast, the change – considering medieval Dude was Sol’s own father – seemed odd, I didn’t understand how it happened exactly. Now, I have to admit I DID go and get more beer at one point, so perhaps I missed something. Although the fridge is not exactly eons away from my living room, unless of course there is some sort of time anomaly in my kitchen?
Now, there WERE moments I did enjoy in Doomsday, believe it or not: I loved the idea the medieval girl didn’t know what a car or a mobile phone was when they discovered a GIANT STACK OF THEM in a bunker near the big castle and as mentioned earlier, Adrian Lester was pretty good, dying heroically too like he did. Plus the barbeque of Sean Pertwee was always going to be a winner for me: not enough men get scorched in horror in comparison to the likes of poor Cybil (as in Silent Hill, in my post yesterday). Also, I’m always willing to concede the idea that films don’t end up the way they’re intended – so many people go into the soup of filmmaking, it’s always a possibility something will go wrong or a huge dash of ego from the execs might make it taste wrong (I’ll stop mixing my metaphors now).
But ultimately, I just didn’t enjoy Doomsday like I enjoyed The Descent or Dog Soldiers. What about you?