Flick has a group of six grad students taking a hiking trip deep in the woods. Alice (Scout Taylor-Compton) has brought her new girlfriend Jules (Olivia Luccardi) and officially come out to her friends, not all who take her pronouncement well. None of them, however, are prepared when a vicious and animalistic man attacks them in the night, wounding one and killing another. On route back to get their friend help, they encounter mysterious, lone woodsman Talbot (Lew Temple) who takes them to his cabin. After some provocation, Talbot warns them that what they encountered carries a virus that kills it’s host and takes over the body…and their wounded friend will eventually turn. Alice and company soon start to wonder how he knows so much and if he is possibly more dangerous than what now hunts them from outside.
A zombie is a zombie and whether it runs or walks, whether you call it a virus or if it’s supernatural in origin, it’s still a zombie. The creatures in Mark Young’s film, that he co-wrote with Adam Frazier, kill their prey, who themselves reanimate at night, vicious and hungry. Physically they more resemble the creatures from Neil Marshall’s The Descent, but otherwise, they are the living dead. Young and Frazier do try to freshen them up a bit, like the virus being dormant in the daytime and the creatures seeming to have animal-like intelligence, but at the core they are still zombies who need to be shot in the head to be put down. Even so, the attack scenes are still very effective, there is some nice tension and the flick gets quite gruesome, as the camping friends are besieged by these “feral” creatures of the night. The horror elements here are familiar, though still work well. What makes this film even more interesting, though, is strong characters, particularly lead Scout Taylor-Compton as Alice and the very effective sub-plot involving her and her girlfriend Jules. Taylor-Compton is a real bad-ass here, yet she is a caring one who is trying to protect her friends. Before the first “feral” creature appears, there is some tension as Alice is concerned for how her religious father will react to her new relationship and her friend Jesse (Brock Kelly) is very un-excepting of her announcing she’s gay. Obviously Jesse focuses his anger on Jules and it’s no surprise at one point there will be a confrontation between the two. Young is a competent filmmaker and does use the familiar tropes solidly, but it is his characters and the insertion of some topical human drama that makes this undead chiller stand out a bit from the pack.
We have a good cast here. Mark Young uses Rob Zombie film vets Taylor-Compton and Lew Temple very well. Scout Taylor-Compton gives us a very strong and intelligent young woman, but one with a heart. She fights hard for her friends and loved ones and while it’s a bit convenient that she is a med student and from a “family of hunters”, she is a very strong final girl. She conveys a toughness and a sensitivity. She also has very good on-screen chemistry with Olivia Luccardi (It Follows) as Jules. They come across as a believable couple and it helps make their characters endearing. There is also some interesting tension between them, as differing opinions on dealing with infected friends causes conflict between the lovers. Temple is good as the woodsman who knows far more about these creatures than he first lets on. He has a dark secret and the actor keeps us curious till it’s revealed. It’s not anything we haven’t figured out, but Temple plays it well. Renee Olstead is fine as the injured Brienne, Landry Allbright is a standout as Gina, George Finn is likable as the ill-fated Matt and Brock Kelly conveys the anger and ignorance of Jesse very well. A good cast.
In conclusion, while still a zombie film at it’s core, it’s solidly directed by Mark Young. The horror scenes are gory and effective, and he and co-writer Adam Frazier try to make their zombies a bit different, which begs the question why they needed to be zombies at all and not just infected and crazed humans. What makes the film really worth a look is strong character interaction, a solid heroine in Scout Taylor-Compton’s Alice and an interesting story element finding a young woman opening up to her friends about being gay and the mixed reactions she and her girlfriend get. The dynamic of Alice fighting to save her friends, especially Jules, gives the film a fiery spark that adds something beyond good use of very familiar tropes. Definitely worth a look.
Rated 3 bullets so you can shoot ’em in the head!