Directed by John Geddes
2011, Canada, 114 minutes
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that there were six hundred people in the Toronto Underground Cinema for Exit Humanity. There may have been more. It was pretty full (the theatre seats seven hundred thirty seven, according to their liquor license), and I wasn’t able to sit in the aisle seat, like I prefer—more on that later. Anyway, six hundred people sitting for a two-hour movie equals twelve hundred human hours spent (read: wasted) watching Exit Humanity. Now, to borrow (and pervert) an argument from Tony Kushner, spending that much time on a bad movie is the moral equivalent of murdering a month-and-a-half-old infant.
Sure, Exit Humanity starts with a great premise: zombie apocalypse, a handful of survivors, and the Old West. Zombies and the US Civil War should go together like ultra-violence and Quentin Tarantino. It should work, but doesn’t.
The first problem is a terrible script. Set up as a journal of main character Edward Young (Mark Gibson), Exit Humanity is narrated by Brian Cox, whose considerable talents are wasted on dull and insipid words more suited to fan fiction than a feature film. The plot meanders and stumbles. Action is divided up episodically (i.e., into chapters of the journal—towards the end, chapter seven feels more like chapter seventy), and the lurching plot feels like it wants to be a TV miniseries instead of a film—except that it shouldn’t ever be one, because that would be stupid and terrible.
Rounding out the badly written script, the performances are dull, the editing is tedious, and the art direction is spotty. My favourite game quickly became “spot the anachronism”. Other audience members, consisting of the film’s cast, crew, and families, played a different game, called “cheer and hoot whenever we recognize someone on screen”. This is a shame, as Exit Humanity has enough trouble building a moment without comments from the peanut gallery.
But surely, you ask, there are some good points to Exit Humanity? Well, yes: the cinematography is gorgeous. The film has a great palette, more impressively, is pretty good at shooting in the dark. Lots of films aren’t. Also, the film is punctuated with short animation pieces. The animation itself is great, even though the pieces are used either as filler or as information dumps.
Sure, Exit Humanity is ambitious. However, it isn’t stunning. It isn’t well-executed. It isn’t smart. It isn’t thought-provoking. It isn’t harrowing. I would have walked out, had there not been seven people between me and the aisle. I can’t say how much I hate this film, but boy did I try.
– Dave Robson
The 6th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs October 20 though 27, 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For complete festival info visit www.torontoafterdark.com.