review by Diablo Joe
The post-apocalyptic zombie film "Alive" is the debut film from writer/director David Marantz. It's a picture that hews to the "Walking Dead" model where humans are as much, if not more, of a danger than the undead.
The story follows a young couple, Helen and Kevin, attempting to survive after an outbreak that turns people into savage, zombie-like creatures, resulting in the downfall of civilization. With them is Helen's brother Barney, who contracted the contagion but has not yet turned. The trio encounters Dan, a loner with a hidden secret who begrudgingly aids them in their quest for sanctuary. But this entire group soon finds themselves in danger from a band of survivors led by Father Albert. Albert sees Helen as his flock's passport to a safe refuge of their own and is willing to do anything to get her.
"Alive" draws on tropes from a wide variety of zombie films and other post-apocalyptic stories in piecing together its theme and narrative. This all works to some extent, but overall, the movie's influences are pretty bald-faced in evidence. Much of the interaction between Helen, Kevin, and Dan, and the later conflict with Father Albert's group, will remind viewers of the aforementioned long-running cable television show. There are also familiar plot elements in Dan's not-so-hard-to-deduce hidden secret, which echoes that of "TWD's" Governor. The importance to Father Albert (and others) of Helen as a viable child-bearing woman may remind some of Alfonso Cuarón's brilliant "Children of Men," but without that film's thematic depth.
But comparisons and influences aside, the problem with Marantz's film is its distinct lack of menace and urgency. For a picture about zombies and a post-apocalyptic world, there doesn't seem to be any feeling of a threat from either. The zombies are few and far between, and when they finally do appear, they're less than impressive. Dan spends much of the film, rifle raised and ready, as if the infected are amassed around every corner. Nothing could be further from the case. Neither slow-moving nor fast, they tend to lurk longingly about their victims before strolling to attack. As for the infection, it decidedly IS slow-moving, as Barney seems to take days upon days to succumb to his bite. How this ravaged and destroyed society in what seems like less than a year is anyone's guess.
Father Albert's group is equally less impressive. Except for the not-so-good padre and his henchpersons, Pete and Lucy, they're a rather tepid group. One of the film's conceits is that things have gotten so bad that there is now a premium on fertile women, hence Albert's interest in Helen. But just how these paunchy, middle-aged men and women have survived while the fertile, fecund youth of the world have not is baffling. As for smarts, even ex-policeman Pete, who lopped off his own arm to stave off infection, doesn't seem to show any as he helps raid Dan's house to retrieve Helen. Firing blindly into a darkened attic, he seems to care little about hitting the very person he's seeking to capture.
”Alive” is innocuous enough and never really bores, but it doesn’t get an audience’s blood moving much, either. Zombie films, as a whole, have gone into a rut. After 11 seasons of “The Walking Dead,” we’ve seen more than enough of the “plucky band of heroes join with misanthropic anti-hero to stave off ruthless band of ordinary folks gone bad” trope. As such, “Alive” won’t provide most horror fans with the adrenaline rush they likely seek from this genre.
This devil of a reviewer gives “Alive” 2 out of 5 imps.