Evilution (2008)

The end is here!

Writer: Brian Patrick O’Toole
Director: Chris Conlee

Evilution is a small scale zombie movie that ends up working quite well despite rather than because of its attempts to be different.

The story begins at a US Army research centre in Iraq. Scientists are trying to “weaponise” a zombie making virus to create an army of unkillable, undead soldiers. Things go wrong and (almost) the whole unit is wiped out.

Back home in the US, one of the scientists has escaped and continues to work on a sample of the virus. To stay out of sight he’s holed up in what might generously be called a “low rent” hotel filled with strange characters. It’s only a matter of time before the inevitable happens…

So far so ordinary. The USP of Evilution, and the justification for the title, is that this time the zombie virus is an alien entity. It takes control of the human bodies and uses them to attack and spread itself. Or, in a non-threatening situation, it’s capable of communication through the human host. They are capable of “learning, adapting… recreating themselves”.

The whole alien virus thing might have been interesting but ends up being of little relevance. There’s no real back-story as to the nature of the aliens, simply a single cliched exchange about humans preferring to be individuals; a message that’s already the subtext of almost every zombie film made. Dropping the whole alien business would have made little difference to the story.

There are other problems with the writing, which feels a little insecure. The zombies’ weakness is telegraphed very clearly and very early – it’s not quite as convenient as killing triffids with sea water but close. The ending is also strange, with the natural end being “topped” by a second rather silly final scene. On the plus side the characterisation is good and it’s nice to see the military acting the way I believe they would in real life.

So O’Toole’s script is weak but ok. There’s not a great deal of action away from the two ends of the story, but Conlee’s direction is nice and atmospheric, especially the use of the colour palette. What really makes Evilution work for me is the characters, the main one of which is the hotel itself! They’re nicely written and the actors and director make them all feel real with an edge of strangeness. The place feels odd and that unease gets through to the viewer. It’s a pleasant change from the middle class suburbia we so often see in zombie movies or even the sanitised inner city of a film like Rec (2007).

Evilution is a flawed movie that tries to be more than it actually is. However for me the setting and the characters compensated for that enough to make it an enjoyable watch. Just don’t expect it to be anything like the trailer!