Chaos consumes a small town when a chemical facility explodes releasing a deadly toxin. Moments after the leak, the town’s residents show signs of mutation, causing the military to quarantine the area leaving any survivors helpless and trapped inside. The story follows Jim, a young man isolated within the red zone, as he eludes flesh eating zombies in an attempt to win back his freedom.
Entering into the zombie genre, or taking on the zombie apocalypse story, is a brave move for any filmmaker. Audiences are so used to this recurring horror staple that there can be little originality in any production. The Clay Brothers’ State Of Emergency doesn’t offer anything new to the tried and tested formula, but if you can implement this formula well, why do you need to?
The film centres on Jim (Jay Hayden, who reminded me of a younger Eric Bana) and his fight for survival. At the very beginning we follow as he loses his fiancée and seeks refuge in an abandoned barn complex. As he shelters an old television shows a news report explaining the developing situation: an explosion has occurred in the county for as yet unknown reasons and there is a military quarantine in force.
After failing to attract the attention of some passing military helicopters Jim creates a HELP sign on the barn roof in the hope of rescue. While up there he notices a strange man in the distance, seemingly observing him. Somewhat unsettled Jim heads back inside but carelessly leaves the main door unlocked. That night, while trying to sleep, he hears noises coming from another area of the barn. As he investigates he discovers the unlocked door and secures it, but is he still alone in the building?
The first thing to state is that State Of Emergency is not, in truth, a zombie film. The monsters are more akin to those of 28 Days Later in that this is an infection that turns the population into blood crazed animalistic aggressors rather than traditional zombies. This mutation causing infection is caused by an explosion at an abandoned chemical weapons factory and while the majority of the locals become victims Jim, and the other survivors he meets, are for some reason immune.
The film itself is extremely atmospheric with the director creating and underlying feeling of isolation, and at times desperation. Instead of the usual buckets of blood and gore, although there is some, this is a more character driven piece with each character’s personality coming under scrutiny as they hide, cowering in a warehouse knowing little of outside events. The relatively unknown cast give strong performances on the whole, conveying believable and appropriate reactions under increasingly difficult circumstances. The direction is unfussy and clear, and doesn’t fall into the temptation of trying to do too much with the idea, preferring to allow each scene to run to its natural conclusion rather than hurry the plot along unnecessarily. One point I did like was that the characters appear genuinely afraid of the infected, preferring to remain hidden rather than becoming rampaging vigilantes hell bent on violence.
On the whole this is an enjoyable take on the genre and while there is nothing particularly new here, nothing you will not have seen before, State Of Emergency is cleverly written and directed with an intelligently frugal style. The ending is a little sentimental but this can be excused given the trials the characters have faced. At the end of the day this film deserves an audience and I would strongly recommend it.
State of Emergency (2010) is now available on DVD per RLJ Entertainment
State of Emergency (2010)