Descendents (2008)

JUNE 4, 2012


Quick, let’s get a Kickstarter going right away that will fund a remake of Descendents (aka Solos), which boasts one of the better ideas I’ve heard of for a zombie movie in ages. Because sadly, that idea is wasted on this flimsy, way-too-low budget attempt at a zombie apocalypse, burying the terrific concept under confusing editing, horrendous FX work, and a general lack of structure. Hell, I’d even be open to the same director doing it, dude just needs the money and maybe a better producer to do it right.

That concept is fairly simple: a fairly routine zombie movie as seem through a child’s eyes. As a series of flashbacks will tell us (repeatedly; this movie’s brief length would be shorter if not for duplicate scenes), our young heroine lost her mother and is now all alone, but she is also immune to the zombie virus for reasons unknown. So the film depicts her attempt to make it to the ocean, where her mom told her she’d be safe right before she died. At first she’s alone, eating bugs and such for sustenance, but eventually she hooks up with some other children and even enjoys a fun day in a playground as they head as one (even holding hands, awwww) to their shared destination.

The immunity thing might just be a way to avoid having to have too many zombie scenes; most of them are confined to the flashbacks. The real threat in the present day sequences comes from the usual evil soldier types who are seemingly unable to tell the difference between a little kid and a flesh-eating zombie, and I was actually a bit shocked to see a few of the kids gunned down by these anonymous military goons. Unfortunately, what should be shocking moments are often ruined by the atrocious digital blood that not only sprays on the camera lens (I thought this movie was supposed to be taken seriously?) but is also way too bright compared to the desaturated look of the rest of the film. Seriously, the little girl in Schindler’s List doesn’t stick out as badly as the blood here; it’s distracting and goofy and ruins nearly every big kill/scare moment.

Speaking of bad FX, what the hell is up with the orange sky? It’s obviously a digital effect (sometimes a character’s head will enter that part of the frame and turn orange as well), and I guess it’s supposed to simulate a “scorched earth” type of deal, but like the blood, it’s just an unnecessary distraction. While the background plates aren’t going to win any awards, they do a fine job on their own of selling this world’s post-apocalyptic state, as does the limited cast and rundown locales. The orange sky is poorly done overkill. That said, I did like the insta-transformation effect for the zombies, where they turn white/“scary” in mere seconds (often while the original zombie is still biting them); it’s well done and something I don’t think I’ve seen before, so well played!

Now I’m going to get into spoilers, or at least I think they are. If I’m understanding the movie right, the little girl was a zombie the entire time and was retaining her childish imagination throughout, which would explain why the soldier guys were trying to kill her (as well as her “immunity”). And it would certainly explain the batshit ending, where her crayon drawings (mostly used for the quite good opening scene that delivered the backstory) come to life – there’s a giant octopus attacking the evil military planes just a few hundred feet off shore, for example. So it’s kind of like Colin meets Life Is Beautiful, or something – right? Anyone have a different explanation? Because if I’m right, again, this is a pretty awesome idea, but the above problems weigh the movie down too much for it to really register.

The extra features are of no help; director Jorge Olguín discusses all aspects of the production except the script; we get like 5 minutes on the FX but not even 5 seconds on if the (oft-mentioned) quick shooting schedule and low budget forced him to change elements of his story. It’s not a bad piece, but (unlike the film) it’s in Spanish with subtitles, and he’s a motor mouth, so it requires your complete attention. Plus, whoever did the subtitles did a terrible job (“It is a creately way to of work”), so you have to put in a little extra effort to follow along. Then there are four music videos; 2 are just punk/rockabilly nonsense I had no interest in, but I did quite like Denise Malebran’s “Llevame” (performed over the end credits) despite the language barrier, and composer Claudi Perez’ “Main Theme” is also quite lovely, and much better than the 28 Days Later ripoff stuff that makes up most of the movie’s instrumental section.

It really bums me out when I see so much promise in a concept, and even some of the execution (the crayon drawn opening, the zombie transformations), but can’t get behind the movie as a whole because of numerous problems that could have been avoided with a little more money and clear-headed thinking. Dammit movie, why won’t you let me like you more!

What say you?


  1. The kids are mermaids (thus the gills on their necks) and thus don't breath the air. They can live in the water.

    The octopus thing was a terrible idea at the end.

    1. I think the other anonymous viewer is right: the kids are mermaids, and it's really no more subtle than that. Which is a shame - I hadn't thought of the possibility that it was a delusion and the kids were zombies, which would have been much more satisfying. Instead, we get a wtf out-of-left-field ending which might have been more interesting than the rest of the film, due to the surreal, non-sequitur nature....


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