WHAT WE BECOME (2015)
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While the film is overall about a zombie outbreak, Danish filmmaker Bo Mikkelsen chooses instead not to focus on the carnage, but the effect the initial quarantine and then eventual spreading out of control, has on a typical Danish suburban family. It starts out with father, Dino (Troels Lyby), his wife, Pemille (Mille Dinesen), rebellious teen son, Gustav (Benjamin Engell) and young daughter, Maj (Ella Solgaard), hearing about some viral outbreak on TV. Soon their neighborhood and surrounding area is quarantined by gun toting military and news on TV becomes more and more sparse. Anyone who tries to leave the neighborhood is shot and soldiers routinely patrol the streets with gunfire being heard throughout the night. As the tension rises in their home over concerns as to what is exactly going on, the family soon find they are confined in their house with something out of a nightmare lurking outside…in the form of their former neighbors.
Writer/director Bo Mikkelsen creates a tense and suspenseful film by focusing on the family and not what’s lurking outside. While, as horror fans, we know what we are going to eventually discover, the family does not and they are kept in the dark and are afraid as the situation escalates. This puts us in their shoes and creates tension as the situation gets worse and our suburbanites are told less and less and are treated harshly by the military, with no explanation. This tension turns to outright terror when they realize in the last act that this virus turns their neighbors into something horrible and violent and they are sealed in the quarantined area with them. This leads to a bloody final third which finally unleashes the horror, literally in their own backyard and we get a more traditional zombie climax that delivers what we expect in one of these movies. The difference is that Mikkelsen has taken time to escalate the tension and make us familiar with our likable family unit. So even if it ends on a familiar note, it has impact, as we like these people and now watch them fight for their very lives with no one coming to help. It works and is a bit of a refreshing spin on the over-saturated zombie sub-genre. The production values are solid and the gore FX are quite effective when they finally arrive.
The cast are really good. Lyby is solid as the patriarch Dino. A caring man thrust into a situation where even he is not sure how to protect his family. The actor portrays well the fear and concern as his world gets darker and more uncertain each day. Mille Dinesen is good as the mother Pemille. She is a strong woman who sometimes has to make hard decisions especially in a situation where they world seems to be spiraling out of control. Engell portrays a typical rebellious teen, who, even in an apocalyptic situation like this, defies his parents and risks all to be with his pretty neighbor, Sonja (Marie Hammer Boda). Rounding out is young Ella Solgaard as youngest Maj, who like most children, finds a way to retain her child-like innocense even in a fear filled situation as this. A good cast that create a likable family unit for us to endear to.
Despite being a familiar tale, Danish horror is a well told one from a less familiar angle. Instead of focusing on the carnage of the infected, it focuses on a family and tells the story from their point of view as an outbreak scenario spirals out of control. The cast give us three dimensional characters to get attached to and filmmaker Bo Mikkelsen keeps things mysterious and tense even though we ultimately know what’s coming…and when it’s does come, it is very effective. A very entertaining slant on the over-saturated zombie genre.
3 and 1/2 bunnies.