dir. Geoff Reisner and Jason Tobias.
Following a global pandemic one family are left sheltering in an isolated farmhouse. But when a group of violent marauders arrive to loot the building they discover they’re hiding a lot more than canned goods and paracetamol.
The zombie film has taken on many guises in its 90-year history, from social-satire masterpieces Night of the Living Dead / Dawn of the Dead to monstrous Hollywood vehicles such as World War Z. But whether you love them or think that they bite it’s clear the zombie sub-genre is going nowhere: so in the midst of our own global pandemic Forget Everything and Run (aka F.E.A.R.) attempts to offer a hyper-realistic take on the undead, albeit with limited success.
Information about the catastrophe that’s taken place is intentionally vague: we only know it has something to do with the water supply, the audience generally kept in the dark aside from some useful production choices that outline rules survivors must follow. It’s a technique which mostly works well, meaning that flashbacks focus on establishing the bonds between the family pre-outbreak rather than covering events that lead up to the breakdown of society. This means however that when shady revelations come to light it has little to no effect on characters or plot, the dialogue relying on exposition-heavy exchanges that struggle to carry the weight of its ambition.
Similar to genre powerhouse The Walking Dead it’s not the zombies (sparingly used here) that offer the most imminent threat, but the dregs of humanity left after the apocalypse. Following a daring raid – involving some of the most brutal human shields ever put to screen – a deal is struck between both parties which divides the family in two. Directors Reisner and Tobias (the latter also starring) hop between the rival sides, but it’s the conflict at the homestead which really captivates, actors Marci Miller and Susan Harmon hurling accusations with aplomb. What it means to be a mother in desperate times and the lengths one would go to to protect your own are themes wrangled with, the slick standoff forcing the audience to contemplate their own position and loyalties.
There is a claim amongst genre fans that horror films are the most difficult to conclude: demonic possessions don’t just resolve; flesh eating viruses aren’t cured with prescription meds; and zombie holocausts are nigh-on-impossible to recover from. In this sense F.E.A.R. really unravels in the third act where, despite a climatic battle with the undead, the temptation to tie up loose ends (even ones which weren’t even apparent from the beginning) proves too much, and whilst it’s hard not to admire the filmmakers’ endeavour an even less-is-more approach might have worked better.
As we hopefully near the end of the Covid pandemic, F.E.A.R. was uniquely placed to speak to the zeitgeist: it’s just a shame it isn’t more memorable.