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Forget all the subtle and nuance of mood from Neil Marshall’s taut thriller The Descent; he decided to go all out with the new flick Doomsday. Call it 28 Weeks Beyond Thunderdome if you’d like as Marshall seems to cull all the best aspects of past cinema B-movie greats to create a pastiche that is one helluva ride. With a plot that serves only to give us an excuse for action and borderline comical characters introducing us to the punk-metal cannibal way of life as well as a separate sect going back to medieval times complete with king and executioner, you’ll be wrestling with the urge to cheer, laugh, or cover your face without knowing which one to do. Check your brain at the door and buckle in for a good time with blood, cars, and fire galore.

After an infection of the Reaper virus was discovered in Scotland, the entire half of the island was quarantined and left for dead. Only when the outbreak appears to be resurfacing some thirty years later in London and a new containment strategy is underway does the government decide to go back in search of a cure. Finding that there have been survivors up north behind the wall, it is assumed that there must be a cure to bring back and save humanity. If it were that easy, though, we wouldn’t have half as much fun as we do. You see the one man that might have been able to invent the end of the disease, Kane, is not as sane as he might have been. Thirty years of being left behind has pushed any idealism from his head, deciding instead to use his immunity as the power to rule. Telling his people that they are the survivors of the virus and the outside has been destroyed, he is able to keep a short leash while he stays in his castle lording over them. His son Sol doesn’t buy into it and takes a section with him to the cities, waiting for a rescue party that they can capture and use as a way out. Drop in some military and scientific personnel—to find Kane—smack dab in the middle of a war and the party begins.

With a high bodycount and a complete lack of the necessity to show every character until their end, (Kane, played maliciously by Malcolm McDowell is a complete MacGuffin with little screentime and more mythical stature than actual man of any consequence), Doomsday leads us through a wasteland of carnage where the idea of a cure really falls away behind the desire to see if Major Eden Sinclair can kill more people and stay alive herself. It is too much to worry about a world about to be obliterated by a tiny microorganism when we have a woman’s life at stake right before our eyes. You soon forget her mission and start putting all your interest behind her crazy carefree attitude taken with any adversary. The Major is portrayed by Rhona Mitra, an actress I have heard and seen very little of, although it appears she is on her way to becoming a household name among the internet film community. I tell you what, consider me won over. From the badass demeanor, the gladiator style beat-down, the high-speed driving prowess, an utter fearlessness, and not to forget a camera for an eye, Mitra takes this role and flies high with it, never looking back at reality.

When you have this type of off-the-wall intrigue, you need to have some serious people to counterbalance the wackiness. We get the puppet Prime Minister from a favorite of mine Alexander Siddig along with the man who pulls his strings played by a raspy voiced David O’Hara. These two are included to try and give us some semblance of real world stakes while the circus continues on in the zoo that was Scotland. Even Mitra’s handler is played straight by the always-great Bob Hoskins. They all help ground the film so that we can have our fun with characters like the city dwellers’ leader Sol. In complete crazed manic wildness, Craig Conway steals the show. Between the mohawk, the face tattooed girlfriend with a tongue to rival KISS, a penchant for loud screams, and the dance moves to metal, this guy is one-of-a-kind. His crew pitted against Mitra’s is a sight to behold.

Through all the fights, stunts, and pyrotechnics, one sequence stands out above the rest. In what could be the most exhilarating car chase I have ever seen, Marshall treats us to some fantastic footage. He must have had cameras everywhere to film it all because I don’t see them doing multiple takes. Why try to take a car out when you can jump through the front windows and battle with the driver at 100 mph? Watching a fast-paced car race with two guys hanging halfway inside the car, a gun changing hands, and elbows flying wildly is just fantastic. A bigger budget has allowed Marshall to spread his wings a bit and create an amalgam so familiar that it becomes uniquely original. I may not have learned anything nor found any emotive connection with the plight to save humanity, but I definitely left the theatre with a huge smile on my face.

Doomsday 7/10

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photography:
[1] Rhona Mitra as Eden Sinclair in Rogue Pictures’ Doomsday (2008) Copyright © Rogue Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
[2] Copyright © Rogue Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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