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When you think of the average zombie movie, what comes to mind? I'll bet it's lots of blood and gore and plenty of violence. It's probably filled with lots of “jump-at-you” scares and some chase scenes. What a lot of zombie movies forget to include is a sense of humanity in the main characters. Zombie movies are the quintessential “us vs. them” story and plenty of stories forget to include that. Of course, no one wants to die, but what are the other dangers of living in a zombie-infested world? A loss of purpose, a loss of identity, and a loss of humanity. Those thoughts are a bit deeper than your average horror movie, but someone had to address it at some point.
Exit Humanity is a 2012 zombie movie written and directed by first-timer John Geddes (producer on Scarce, Monster Brawl). The movie stars Mark Gibson (Monster Brawl, Psych) as former Confederate soldier Edward Young. The story comes from Edward's diary, read by his descendant Malcolm Young, voiced by Brian Cox (X2, Troy). Broken up into separate chapters, the story begins after the Civil War with an outbreak of the dead coming back to life and eating the living. The walking dead claim the lives of Edward's wife and young son, scarring and haunting Edward. He burns his son's body and gathers the ashes with the plan to scatter them in a special spot. Broken by their loss, Edward fails at a suicide attempt and beings to wander hopelessly through the Tennessee wilderness. He questions life, nature, and the essence of humanity and the world falls apart around him. He happens upon a small village where he meets Isaac (Adam Seybold, The Chair, Stock and Awe), another survivor. Issac convinces Edward to aid him in rescuing his sister Emma (Jordan Hayes, House At The End Of The Street, Nostrum) who has been kidnapped by rebel soldiers, led by General Williams (Bill Moseley, House of 1000 Corpses, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto). General Williams has been capturing survivors and forcing them to be bitten by zombies in hopes of finding someone with an immunity. During their rescue, Edward is shot and they bring him to the home of Eve (Dee Wallace, Cujo, The Howling) a supposed witch, who can heal him. Edward recovers and for a time, all four live together in relative peace. Eve reveals that it is because of her that the zombies now roam the land. Her sister was raped and Eve, using her knowledge of medicine, terminated the pregnancy. Her sister was killed by the town and Eve was shunned. Through a spell, Eve was able to bring her sister back to life, but the process turned her into a flesh-craving zombie, thus starting the outbreak. Initially angry, Edward manages to forgive Eve and find peace within himself. One night, Emma is bitten by a zombie, but reveals that she has already been bitten before and is immune. He completes his journal to the special spot, a beautiful, serene waterfall, and empties his son's ashes into the water. At the same time, General Williams and his men discover that Emma is immune to the zombie bite and capture her, killing Eve in the process. Will Edward be able to stop General Williams and save Emma before it is too late?
"My cramps are gone by my head is still killing me!"
While it may not seem like it from my general summary, Exit Humanity is far deeper than your typical horror movie. The movie constantly asks existential questions and addresses complicated themes. Edward Young's tale of survival is not just of the physical, but of the emotional and spiritual as well. He is tortured by the loss of his wife and son and, unlike typical zombie movie heroes, gives up. He doesn't run blindly into a horde of zombies and “kicks ass”. His inability to protect his family has shattered his psyche, making him question his own capabilities as a man. He comes out of his despair when he crafts a new “family” with Emma, Issac, and Eve and then casts off his humanity all together when he goes to get Emma back. This character development is much more in-depth than straight-forward movies, let alone horror. Despite all of this inner turmoil and existential crisis, the movie is still relatively easy to follow, even for those not looking to be touched. Of course, the movie does include the usual "man is the real enemy" theme found in most zombie movies.
Exit Humanity has a lot of poignant, heart-breaking moments, but also gives the audience a good amount of action and violence. It doesn't have a large amount of gore, but if that's all you're looking for in a zombie movie, you've come to the wrong place anyway. The zombies look good and move at my preferred slow, lurching speed. The locations used in the movie are absolutely stunning and make the poignant moments beautiful. Exit Humanity also includes a few animated scenes throughout, usually at the beginning of chapters. I'm not exactly sure what the reasoning was behind the use of animation, but regardless, they look very good. The way the movie was shot is very reminiscent of Valhalla Rising, with it's sweeping camera work, beautiful natural landscape, and directorial decisions. With only a few acting credits to his name, Mark Gibson plays the role of Edward Young very well, which is not easy considering the amount of emotional and physical acting required. Despite being a relative newcomer, John Geddes has a fantastic eye for great shots and flexes his directorial muscle with an array of creative and unique scenes. The music used throughout the movie is downright beautiful and if I have any complaint it's that we actually hear the music too much and miss out on some good lines of dialogue.
I like that the movie was set in the post-Civil War era, separating the movie from other zombie movies. You shouldn't believe that the movie is just “zombies in the Civil War” because Exit Humanity is much more than that. The Civil War is just the backdrop for the deeper questions posed by the movie. Writer/director John Geddes crafts a fun and emotional zombie movie that is well acting and beautifully shot. The inclusion of animation is certainly different, but helps separate the movie from other zombie films. The movie clocks in at about 2 hours, so be prepared for a long watch. If you're looking for a movie with lots of gore and over-the-top violence, you will be disappointed. If you like the movies to have more meaning and ask difficult questions, you will enjoy Exit Humanity. Exit Humanity is special and hopefully other horror movies follow suit. I look forward to future work from John Geddes.