Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Directed by David Morlet
Starring Hélène de Fougerolles, Francis Renaud, Dida Diafat
Distributed by Momentum Pictures
With impressive French titles such as Inside, Frontier(s) and Martyrs sitting high atop many a horror lovers’ list over the past few years, the most recent entry from the continent’s new wave comes to the UK in the form of David Morlet’s Mutants.
Set in a bleak apocalyptic future where a virus has turned most of the population into disfigured, ravenous creatures, the film follows loving couple Sonia and Marco as they struggle to survive. In the beginning the couple are held under the control of a military woman who demands that, at any cost, they make contact with military station NOAH – the supposed last bastion of hope.
Paramedic Sonia is at odds with the “kill ‘em all” approach our military figure adopts, and it isn’t long before one encounter sees Marco both suffering a gunshot wound and a heady dose of infected blood in the mouth. The pair hole up in an abandoned facility as Sonia fights desperately to preserve her rapidly mutating beau and figure out a way to contact the outside world, however a roving band of ruthless survivalists eventually show up to give us the zombie horde ending we hoped wasn’t going to happen.
You see, for the first half of Mutants the film adopts an intimate position between the tragic couple, promising a deeper, more character-driven study than what we actually end up getting. Once Sonia and Marco make it to the facility, it becomes less and less effective with each progressive stage of the infection. Marco essentially shouts at her to begin with, finds himself losing hair and spitting up blood, and then starts raging out á la 28 Days Later. Each time, there is no actual further insight into his character’s psyche – he just breaks down and cries at the end of his fits. Repeat until Sonia eventually locks him up. The emotional tie between them, and the unbearable pain that must follow in this situation, is never explored to the depths that the work relies on.
The final groan comes once the survivalists show up. They are non-characters. Fodder in the purest sense; and once they appear and begin abusing Sonia for basically no reason whatsoever, you just know the film, like Marco, is about to devolve into nothing much more than a bunch of running and screaming. Not that that’s a bad thing in many cases, but most of the mutant-attack gore is entirely off-screen (mainly blood and grue splatters from off camera), and with such a promising opening it ensured that ultimately the film is a disappointment.
On a technical level, Mutants fares excellently. The muted colour palette of clinical blues and greens adds a severely desolate feeling to the proceedings and director Morlet does well in creating impact with the violence. His use of shaky-cam here is actually very effective and not at all distracting, and the flying viscera and mud during the climactic scenes stand out crisply. The gore and make-up effects are pretty impressive too, when you get a good look at them – however Marco’s final mutant appearance is somewhat disappointing.
The premise and themes of Mutants hold a ton of potential, but the script fails to realise any of it. Given some more effort in the writing department, this could have (and should have) been the zombie equivalent of Cronenberg’s The Fly. Instead, we just have a well made but sub-par 28 Days Later rip-off.
Special features on Momentum’s DVD come in the form of the trailer. That’s it.
2 out of 5
1/2 out of 5
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