There are Serbian dog-food commercials that would have made more sense to me than Doomsday, the quarantined-country-reverts-to-barbarism epic that opens today. It starts out as an engaging action-horror blend with a nice touch of future dystopia (and huge servings of gore), and then slowly unravels until the ending is basically pure Dada. We just saw it. Click through for the whole brain-shredding carnage [spoilers ahead].
I mentioned the other day that Doomsday wasn't screened for critics, and it's easy to see why. I had to go see the first showing at our local theater, which was at noon — exactly 12 hours too early for this sort of movie. If you don't care about logic, or story, or characters, or pretty much anything except for seeing a hot woman dismember people in a tanktop — punctuated by some really, really over the top musical segments — then you'll love this film. It's not Shakespeare. It's not even Shakespeare In Love. But it's better than Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, the last film on this level that I saw.
Here's the plot in a nutshell: in April 2008, a deadly virus (The Reaper) breaks out in Glasgow and spreads like wildfire. The authorities decide, in a very 28 Weeks Later sequence, to quarantine the country and shoot down anybody who tries to get out. But then, 30 years later, a deeply dystopian and slummy London sparks a new outbreak of the virus (which feeds off poverty and overcrowding). The government sends a team up to Scotland to find out why some people survived the virus up there, led by Rhona Mitra's super-commando. Unfortunately, the last survivors of Scotland have fallen into total barbarism.
Doomsday won me over the moment I saw Rhona Mitra's removable eye. Rhona plays Eden Sinclair, who loses an eye as a small girl during the final evacuation of Scotland. When we see her as an adult, she has a prosthetic eye, with a tiny camera inside. The camera goes to a video screen (and digital recorder) in her wristwatch. So she can take her eye out and use it to look around corners, or make secret recordings of whatever she sees. It's really the only scifi-ish thing in the movie, but the first time we see it in action is (sorry) literally eye-popping.
And I'm happy to report that despite all director Neil Marshall (The Descent)'s talk about Mitra's character "keeping her femininity," she's a total hard-ass who doesn't give a shit about anything. We see plenty of scenes of her being a crazy bad-ass and not giving a shit, but just in case we miss it, Marshall has several characters look at her and say things like, "You don't give a shit, do you?" Right at the start of the movie, there's a great scene where her boss, played by Bob Hoskins, smokes with her and tells her that if she keeps going like this, she'll wind up one seriously fucked-up individual. Good to know, Bob. (The great joy of Hoskins these days is watching him slowly morph into Ed Asner.) She does cry once, right at the end, but it's brief and actually appropriate under the circumstances.
The movie is massively over the top from the first few minutes, with a blood spattering massacre at the new Great Wall of Scotland, and then a sequence where Mitra's character takes a bunch of random bad guys. (There's a naked woman in the bathtub, so of course she has a shotgun with her. Who wouldn't?) And it just gets crazier and crazier.
Inside Scotland, there are two groups of survivors. The first, in Glasgow, have turned to cannibalism and really excessive gothpunk fashion. If you don't take joy in watching the blond-mohawked leader of a cannibal tribe dance around to the Fine Young Cannibals, with two pole dancers in fishnets flanking him, then there's just no joy in you. I'm serious. The cannibal leader does a dance routine to Fine Young Cannibals. And then they roast a member of Mitra's team alive and eat him with their bare hands.
The other group of survivors, up north, is led by Malcolm McDowell. And here's where the movie just slides right off the rails. McDowell plays a scientist who was in Glasgow working on a cure for the plague when the country was closed off. And now somehow he's turned into the king of a castle, full of people in fake medieval garb. It's an entire Society for Creative Anachronism culture. And McDowell's scientist character recreates the Spanish inquisition and accuses Mitra of "sin" by having brought the outside world to his castle. (McDowell tries to trick his followers into thinking the rest of the world is dead — but doesn't seem that worried about showing off Mitra and her gang to his followers, even though they're evidence the rest of the world is fine.)
The final reel, when Mitra finds a mint-condition Bentley car in a fallout shelter, and manages to fill the tank with gas, is just bizarre. There's literally a moment where everybody involved seems to decide that if you've watched this far, you're in for the whole ride, and there's no point in trying to make sense any more. I don't know if I should spoil the end of the movie totally, but it succumbs to total dementia. I'm not an epidemiologist, but I'm a tad confused as to how Mitra's "cure" for the disease will work, and why she didn't just avail herself of it two hours earlier. And then Bob Hoskins develops the power of teleportation and becomes mildly psychic. And then Mitra makes some decisions that I can't fathom at all.
Oh, and did I mention that the leader of the cannibals is Malcolm McDowell's son? And that in the final showdown between Mitra's Bentley and the cannibals' ragtag collection of crappy cars and motorcycles, we hear a version of "Two Tribes" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood? And the cannibal leader has a biohazard symbol tattooed on his back, and a leashed slave in full rubber bondage gear? And McDowell's medieval freaks have biohazard insignias — and biohazard stained glass?
Bottom line: Doomsday is a worthy addition to the Resident Evil canon of "butt-kicking babe in a ruined world" movies. Just don't ask any hard questions, like where the cannibals get all their pink hair dye and pristine latex bodysuits, and you'll enjoy the dancing, crashing, exploding, splattering, multiple decapitating goodness.