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Plan Z (2016)

Full Review

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Plan Z is a low budget zombie movie from Stuart Brennan who wrote and directed the film as well as starring in it. It's a fine example of the low-key, bleak style often found in British horror.

The story is set in Scotland and follows Craig (Brennan), a photographer. Craig has been thinking about a possible apocalypse for ages and - like many of us - already has a plan about what to do. So when the outbreak begins he's ready: he gets his supplies before the rest of the public realise what's happening then holes up in his flat to wait things out.

After a week of boredom and loneliness Craig breaks his self-imposed rules to rescue a friend - Bill (Mark Paul Wake). Once their food runs out the pair decide to drive to the hopefully safe haven of the Isle of Skye (this might confuse those who don't realise that Skye is linked to the mainland by a road bridge).

This is not a film about zombie hordes, action and gore. There are a few mass zombie shots, but most of the time the zombies are off-stage - which is also where most of the munching takes place. Plan Z is more about the atmosphere and the characters.

It works really well. The desolate streets and occasional zombie create far more tension than a gorefest ever could. The characters aren't having an adventure - Craig says at one point: "I always thought it would be kind of fun." As have many of us; but in reality post-outbreak survival is a mix of boredom, fear and despair. "Screams then the silence", which pretty much sums up the human condition!

The current events are complemented by short flashbacks to life before and during the outbreak. These help to fill in the back story and provide an emotional backdrop to the current situation. In particular there's one phone conversation that's almost unbearable (in a good way!).

Brennan makes good use of a colour palette to enhance the mood. Most of the film is in washed out near-monochrome with the flashbacks in much more vibrant colour. The whole mood is well supported with unobtrusive and dramatically appropriate music.

The story is rather slight, however it's held together by Craig's plan which we hear in voice over. And towards the end he develops a new, far better plan. All of which leads up to a perfectly judged final scene which gives an upbeat ending to an otherwise relentlessly depressing journey.

I do have a couple of complaints. My first is the standard one: there's way too much shaky camerawork here. In a few places it works, but more often than not it's distracting. The other problem is sound; Brennan seems to like the 'mumble' style of dialogue. It can be difficult to make out what he's saying, especially in the voice overs. I'm a Brit living in Scotland and even I had trouble at times.

Those criticisms aside, this is an excellent little British zombie movie that puts mood and character above action and special effects. If you're a fan of small scale, character based zombie movies then Plan Z is a must see.