The morning after a party, a young man wakes up to find Paris invaded by zombies.
Sam has gone to his ex’s apartment in Paris to retrieve some tapes that she had taken with her. After falling asleep, he realizes that he is alone in the complex surrounded by silent and noise sensitive zombies.
The Night Eats The Word has Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie) adapting to this lifestyle, foraging and trying to stay sane in a new world. Sam has to figure out how to traverse the complex without attracting the zombies in the apartments and stairway. After so long, however, and his solitary lifestyle begins to affect his mind. He even finds a zombie named Albert (Denis Lavant) stuck in a lift that he names and starts a one-sided friendship. At first, it’s rather exciting to watch to see what happens next. After around twenty minutes of nothing happening, however, and it becomes boring.
Sam’s loneliness is an important part of the film, and his conversations with Albert the zombie is used to good effect as an example. It does become a problem when one person is trying to carry on a movie on their own. Most of the movie is Sam just trying things. He finds a drum set and starts playing along with some music to stave off boredom. He finds bodies and moves them. He collects rainwater. All of it has a story purpose, but this means that much of The Night Eats The World is just Sam doing things. When this starts to affect his sanity is when it becomes more interesting. One of the most intense scenes has Sam trying to catch a cat outside of the complex so that he can have companionship. His reaction after the scene drives home how far his sanity had gone. It also causes him to make a very large mistake later on.
In rather unfortunate circumstances, Sam does find another survivor in Sarah (Golshifteh Farahani). The two become friends, both of them glad to have found another survivor in which to confide. It’s a rare happy moment of the film when the two are conversing. Though both seem rather comforted that they have found each other, there is a feeling of melancholy, knowing that the zombie apocalypse has taken away what they once had. There is a predictable twist towards the end that comes across as contrived, but at least it does lead to a logical conclusion. It is because of this experience that Sam decides to commit a daring escape.
There is not a lot of ground broken by The Night Eats the World. A lone survivor who is losing their sanity in solitude while trying to survive has been done many times, and there aren’t any improvements here. The addition of zombies who don’t make sound is interesting, but I feel the concept worked better on paper. The idea of a deadly horde of fast-moving zombies that can barely be heard sounds terrifying. On the screen however, the silent zombies are more awkward than scary. Focusing only on the expressions and movements made it hard not to chuckle. The best example I can think to compare are musicless music videos. There were not a lot of moments that actually used the silence of the zombies to any effect. While Sam could not hear them moan, he did hear them hitting doors and running. It seemed pointless to try to change the norm if it wasn’t going to be used. Though I am happy that Director Dominique Rocher was wise enough to avoid the all too common exposition about the existence of the zombies.
The Night Eats the World is not a bad film and is worth watching at least once. I applaud the attempts to change the zombies as well, even if it came across as funny rather than scary. Still, Anders Danielsen Lie plays the part well and the movie was able to keep my attention for the majority of its runtime.