OCTOBER 6, 2008
I gotta hand it to the writer/director of The Vanguard, one Matthew Hope – he actually pulled off a fairly original zombie movie. It’s like "Y The Last Man" crossed with the original script for Day of the Dead (look for it online – it’s a completely different, if not necessarily better version of the basic story). It’s not entirely successful, but the budget was low and rather than do the umpteenth “small town gets overtaken by zombies, wiseass slacker fights them” movie, he attempted something more thought provoking and, for lack of a better word, “realistic”.
Unfortunately, he never manages to really focus on one of his ideas, and as a result the movie feels you’ve only seen half of it. There is a lengthy text at the film’s opening (I think only Alone in the Dark’s is longer), always a sign of “uh oh, this movie might not make any sense, better frontload some exposition we never shot”, and it talks about things that never really figure into the movie. For the most part, it’s just our hero (a deaf mute named Max – he looks like a hobo Topher Grace) running around the woods with a hatchet or a knife, making mincemeat out of zombies and also some soldier types who are chasing him. Actually, as the film goes on, the zombies sort of get forgotten about it as well.
Another issue is that the world is supposed to be desolate, lacking resources and becoming uninhabitable, but not only do we never see any of this supposed destruction, we spend the entire film in a forest that looks pretty goddamn healthy to me, and occasionally a gas powered vehicle will happen by to boot. Why bother even having all this stuff if you’re not going to follow through? Just say it takes place in Canada or some other heavily forested area and be done with it.
And this is minor, but it’s a bit strange to have a movie being narrated by a deaf mute.
Acting’s good though, as are most of the gore effects. The final bad guy is given a CGI geyser of blood for some reason (plus yet ANOTHER horrible composite background –that’s what, 3 in the past 5 days?) but otherwise it’s solid stuff. And I love how Max dispatches dudes – he never simply lops off a head or whatever. Instead he just goes apeshit on them, hacking and slicing away like that crazy German broad in Die Hard With A Vengeance.
I also loved the zombies. They’re sort of primal, ape type guys. They move fast, but they’re kind of clumsy/awkward too. Again, it’s just different enough to show that Hope and his crew were going out of their way to stick out. One thing that doesn’t quite work, however, are their post-processed vocals for when they scream. It sounds goofy and worse, obviously dubbed in (as does the occasional line of dialogue, but after Five Across The Eyes, I’m just happy to be able to make out what everyone is saying).
Once again, Anchor Bay hasn’t bothered to include any extras, so maybe Hope deleted a bunch of stuff, or maybe he plans a sequel that further explains/develops some of the movie’s key plot points. He definitely shows promise though – let’s hope his next film has the resources he needs to tell his whole story.
What say you?