Chewed over Tropes or Fresh Food for the Brain?

The Night Eats the World brings the shambling zombie genre to Paris in a film that is either dully derivative…or deviously original.

Directed by Dominique Rocher (who crafts a lot of really odd flicks - check out this 12 second clip when you have a moment), the film open with Sam (Anders Danielson Lie) confronting his ex-girlfriend at a party in her home. The place is packed and Sam is clearly uncomfortable being around people: he just wants to pick up the things he left at her place and be on his way. Flash forward - Sam goes to the room where his things are stored, has a nose bleed, falls to sleep (or passes out) and when he wakes in the morning discovers that the place has been trashed in some sort of bloody fight. Oh yeah…it is empty…except for his now zombified girlfriend.

The rest of the movie follows Sam as he adjusts to his new life in a zombie-filled world.

He plays drums and makes musical instruments from bottles and other items he finds (Anders is both a doctor and musician in his native Norway). He scrubs away undead rave blood to make his new digs tolerable. He explores the apartment building, marking off dangerous places and trying to create some sort of order around him. And he counts his steadily diminishing stock of cans and bags of food.

Then he meets Sarah (Golshifteh Farahani), another survivor.

We won’t spoil the rest, but Farahani (who has been in wildly ranging movies from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales to Arab Blues) changes the way that Sam views the world and their interaction sets him on a very different path.

So is this a good movie or another over-ripe zomb-fest?

First off, the cinematography is absolutely solid. The scenes of Sam’s (ex’s) apartment are both comforting and claustrophobic and the images of a Paris without lights is haunting. And the acting is great. Lie, Farahani, and Denis Lavant - playing the zombie, Alfred - are flawless.

But the script and the construction of the scenes…

The most generous explanation for much of the film is that it is intended to be an homage to the herd of undead movies that came before. Many of the scenes are clearly lifts from earlier movies:

Sam’s daily routine? Vincent Price in the classic The Last Man on Earth, with some of Charleston Heston’s Omega Man.

The “cat scene?” Price in Last Man.

General character of the zombies? 28 Days Later and the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake (as well as the whole ‘fast zombie’ trope).

Sam’s chats with Alfred? Heston’s conversations with statues and mannequins in Omega Man.

Zombies climbing up a building? World War Z. (By the way, while we love us some Brad Pitt, you would be much better reading the Max Brooks’ novel or audio book - it is some of the best satire I’ve seen in the last two decades).

Sam and Sarah’s relationship? Price (again) in Last Man.

Alfred? Bub from Romero’s Day of the Dead.

We could go on, but you get the idea.

If that is the movie it is a solid ‘ok.’ Not quite as good as Train to Busan but, thanks to acting and film work, a respectable two star movie.

But what if…..?

As the relationship between Sam and Sarah unfold it becomes clear that Sam - and the director - are not reliable witnesses. Not everything Sam sees and experiences is real.

What if…none of it is?

Hang with us for a second.

Sam, who seems alert, if withdrawn, in the opening scenes develops a sudden nose bleed, closes his eyes for a moment, and somehow sleeps through the night into the next day. He slept through the screams? The pounding on the door by the undead? That does not seem likely.

And the only zombie left in the house (and the first one he meets) happens to be his ex-girlfriend?

What if everything from Sam’s nose bleed on is a dream: the reason for the parade of cliché and trope is that they are inspired by Sam’s exposure to them in film and on television?

No zombies? No Sarah? No Alfred?

It is possible. And if it is, it turns The Night Eats the World from a pretty, if uninspired, body in the horde to a standout psychological study.

Three out of Five Parisian Croissant Apocalypses.