A pleasant surprise, the intimate French film "Mutants" tackles the familiar zombie genre and infuses it with real human drama. If you come into the film anticipating an all-out creature feature assault, then the slow build tension--most of which arises from man-to-man interactions--might be a little bit of a let down. However, for those that like a little bit of substance with their carnage, there is much to recommend this tense examination of survival. Set in a wintry and isolated environment, "Mutants" makes the most from its claustrophobic setting. Add some good effects, absolutely terrific performances, and an intriguing moral dilemma and this movie far exceeded my expectations. Though not completely original, this still works as a grown-up horror story that balances a thoughtful narrative with gory mayhem.
After a virus transforms much of the population into flesh eating monsters, a young couple (who happen to be paramedics) are on the run to rumored safety at a government installation. Fighting threats both human and grotesque, they hole up in an abandoned building when their fuel supply dwindles. Completely alone, they struggle to cope realizing that the guy has been bitten and is in the first stages of infection. Desperate for help, they soon discover a new terror--and it's not from monsters! Another band of survivors find our couple and it starts to become less certain where the greatest danger lies. As the tension escalates, our hero continues his metamorphosis and soon there is an all out battle for survival. The action sequences are executed with precision, and the payoff is more affecting due to actual character development within the love story.
The theme of unconditional love really gets a work-out here (Amazon astutely referenced Cronenberg's Thy Fly as a comparison point). It takes a traditional story and layers it with an emotional resonance that is quite unexpected and refreshing. I'm not sure why I hadn't heard of this film, but if you're a fan of the genre--this is a strong entry. The lead couple both give gritty and realistic performances that make the final resolution much more powerful and disturbing. Check it out for another fine depiction of the zombie apocalypse. KGHarris, 8/11.