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5 reviews, 33 user ratings

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Doomsday (2008)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"In This Case, Imitation Is The Crappiest Form Of Flattery"
1 stars

Maybe I’m just a grumpy old codger showing my age, but I remember a time long ago when if you were an up-and-coming genre director who wanted to be hailed by audiences and critics alike as the Next Big Thing, you actually had to go out and earn that title by making an actual classic along the lines of “Night of the Living Dead” or “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” or “Assault on Precinct 13" or “Mad Max”–the kind of film that stood apart from its low-budget brethren thanks to its combination of originality, ingenuity and sheer filmmaking skill. Nowadays, however, everyone is so eager to find the Next Big Thing that no one has the patience to wait for someone whose work contains all of those qualities–at this point, all one needs to be anointed into the pantheon is a couple of flashy tricks, a slick line of patter and enough easily snookered fanboys to spread the word online to get the studios interested in signing them up for their latest franchise epic before anyone realizes that he or she is closer to being the next Phil Joanou than the next Steven Spielberg.

The latest filmmaker to ride this particular wave of hype, hysteria and hot air is Neil Marshall, a British director who has carved out a name for himself as the new savior of genre entertainment on the basis of his somewhat overrated 2002 werewolf-themed debut “Dog Soldiers” and his wildly overrated 2005 follow-up “The Descent,” a film in which he demonstrated a genuine skill at creating a tense atmosphere in telling the story of a group of headstrong spelunkers trapped in a underground cavern and then abandoned it for yet another story of icky monsters jumping out of nowhere to messily reduce the cast members one by one. Although he has been successful up to this point, I suspect that his standing in the film world will be in for a serious market correction once word of his latest effort, “Doomsday,” catches hold. Anyone holding out hope that he would use the goodwill that he accumulated through his previous projects (not to mention the equivalent budgetary spike) to give audiences something truly fresh and inventive will be sorely disappointed by this awesomely clunky mishmash that steals so many ideas from so many other, better movies that it feels at times that the only thing that hasn’t been appropriated is the Filthiest Toilet in Scotland from “Trainspotting”–on the other hand, however, it is filled with the decidedly unpleasant substance found on, near and in said toilet.

The film opens with a present-day prologue in which a mysterious plague decimates Scotland and turns most of its residents into pustule-covered zombies who die out in the ickiest ways possible. Unable to find a cure for the disease, the British government decides to prevent it from spreading further by isolating the entire country behind enormous walls and letting the populace devolve into diseased cannibalistic monsters before dying off in the filthy streets for good. (While I wouldn’t dream of saying something so cheap and inflammatory, feel free to add in your own “sounds like a lateral move” comment at this time.) The story then jumps forward to 2035 (or “NOW,” as the subtitle helpfully explains to those audience members for whom the designation “2035" might not provide enough information) as the same plague appears to be reappearing in the now-dangerously overpopulated streets of London and promises to spark an even-deadly outbreak than before. Luckily, the prime minister (Alexander Siddig) has an ace up his sleeve–it seems that for the last three years, he and his cabinet have had proof that there are still survivors within the walls of Scotland. Assuming that they have figured out a way of fending off the disease, the government puts together a top-secret military group to go back into the long-abandoned country and try to find the cure for themselves before the epidemic becomes too big to contain. Heading up the group is Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra), whose name may suggest that girl group that P.Diddy put together a few years ago but who is really a one-eyed, two-fisted loner with just the kind of special skills required for this type of mission–a magical robot eyeball that she deploys until the film kind of forgets about it (which is surprisingly quickly), a body that looks good in government-issue tank tops and a cigarette habit that forces her to try to bum smokes off of virtually everyone she encounters.

Anyway, Eden sets of with her group into the terrifying wilds of post-apocalyptic Scotland and, even more terrifyingly, into the depths of Neil Marshall’s DVD collection. Having already plundered “28 Days Later” for the set-up and “Aliens” for the sequence in which our tough-as-nails heroine is introduced to the fellows warriors and hi-tech hardware that will soon prove to be totally useless after the first major ambush, the film settles into “Escape From New York” territory (so much so that one of the characters is even named Carpenter) as Eden and her men discover that Glasgow is overrun with psychotic punks in the thrall of the maniacal Saul, who leads them in nightly orgies of violence, bloodsport, cannibalism and, most terrifying of all, elaborately choreographed production numbers set to the music of the Fine Young Cannibals. (You would think that they would show a little nationalistic pride and blast some Big Country, but nay. . .) Eventually, she escapes with a couple of fellow soldiers and Cally (MyAnna Buring), the daughter of Kane (Malcolm McDowell), a government scientist who was sent to Scotland long ago to find a cure for the disease and was left behind when the walls went up, to the highlands and winds up in a medieval fantasy along the lines of “Excalibur” or “The Lord of the Rings.” There, she discovers that Kane has gone native (shades of “Apocalypse Now”) and has convinced his fellow renaissance fair refugees that the rest of the world is dead and sentences Eden to death via gladiator battle against his fiercest and most heavily armored soldier. Needless to say, she escapes with Cally, who is immune to the illness, and the film suddenly shifts into full-born “Road Warrior” mode as everyone suddenly acquires high-speed autos in time for a climactic car chase before finally returning to “Escape From New York” to pilfer the finale in which the tough loner single-handedly sinks the slimy politicians thanks to the convenient deployment of a convenient secret recording.

At this point, long-time readers may be thinking to themselves “Wait a second–how can the guy who raved about the first two “Resident Evil” and “Ultraviolet” possibly have the nerve to complain about a ludicrously plotted chunk of action nonsense featuring an ass-kicking babe?” That is true, smarty pants, but if you have actually seen those films before, you will realize that there is a world of difference between the goofball delights that they have to offer and the cinematic sludge that Marshall is slinging around. For starters, those earlier films told stories that were absolutely ridiculous on every possible narrative level but they at least did so with a certain amount of style and panache–in their headlong efforts to try to top themselves with each successive scene, no matter how many violations of the laws of time, space, physics or story continuity they committed along the way, they had the gleeful energy of a bunch of amped-up kids playing with the world’s most expensive action figure playset. By comparison, Marshall is so busy coming up with new film favorites to pilfer from that he never gets around to putting any kind of spin on the material that would make it come alive on its own instead of just seeming like a lifeless recreation of earlier, better films. The closest the film gets to hitting a vein of pure nuttiness comes during its abrupt shift to medieval times but once the initial shock wears off, all you can think of is that Uwe Boll handled this kind of material in a far more distinctively weirdo fashion in “Dungeon Siege.”

Additionally, the makers of the “Resident Evil” films and “Ultraviolet” at least knew how to create nifty and visually kinetic action scenes that held your attention despite (or often because of) their utter implausibility. Right from the start of “Doomsday,” though, it quickly becomes apparent that Marshall has no idea of how to stage, shoot or edit an action scene in a lucid manner and so he tries to disguise his shortcomings by adopting a rapid-fire editing in which there is a cut ever two seconds or so and by filming most of the fight scenes in darkness so that we can’t really see what is supposed to be going on. Needless to say, these attempts to cover up his ineptitude only serve to call attention to themselves and when he does finally dare to give us fight scenes set in the light of day, the results are so incompetent that he stages a brawl within the confines of a moving car–not even a big car, mind you–and we still have no idea of where the various participants are in relation to anyone else.

The other key difference between those aforementioned action films and “Doomsday” centers on the casting, or miscasting in the case of the latter, of the central ass-kicking babe. Yes, Milla Jovovich was gorgeous as all get out in the “Resident Evil” films and “Ultraviolet” but she also threw herself into them with the kind of energy and self-aware humor required to tackle premises as ridiculous as the ones she was offered–more importantly, she brought enough of a genuine physical presence to the party to come across as far more convincing in the action material than one might expect from a supermodel-turned-ass-kicker. Here, Rhona Mitra (perhaps best known in these parts for being the victim of the abruptly edited invisible man rape scene in “Hollow Man”) has the gorgeous thing down but that is where the comparison between her and Jovovich end. Throughout the entire movie, she coasts through the proceedings with a sneering attitude that barely conveys her evident distaste for the material that she has deigned to appear in–Kate Beckinsale in the “Underworld” movies comes across as gregarious and fun-loving compared to Mitra’s moping on display here. As for the action scenes, she is so thoroughly unconvincing as a screen warrior that even as the film lurches towards its final reels, you may still find yourself hoping that a real hero or heroine will swoop in and finally perk things up a bit.

Outside of a reliably fruity supporting performance from Malcolm McDowell–while he may no longer have the sense to tell the difference between a good script and a bad script, he has the voice and panache to bring even the worst lines of dialogue to life–there is absolutely nothing about “Doomsday” that is worth recommending. As an action extravaganza, it is the pits. As a gory horror movie, it is even worse. As an homage to the favorite films of Neil Marshall’s misspent youth, it is so badly done that people like John Carpenter and George Miller are likely to feel more insulted than impressed. Frankly, the only good thing about it is that it is such a dreadful disaster that even the most passionate partisans of Marshall’s earlier films may feel a need to reevaluate their opinions after enduring this mess.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17031&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/15/08 21:11:12
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell believe the critics it sux watch mad max fury road instead 1 stars
7/29/10 Candace Lind Unspeakably fabulous. Don't believe the critics! Every second is fun! 5 stars
12/03/09 matt Wow. Just... wow. Stupendously bad. Boring, derivative and over-edited. mind-numbing 1 stars
7/08/09 Phil This movie is so much fun, I don't care what anybody says! 5 stars
6/27/09 System11 Loads of fun especially if you spot all the references, sets out to entertain and succeeds 5 stars
2/14/09 Ray Just saw it. Rhona rocked, but it was such a rip-off of better films. 2 stars
1/20/09 Peter North I'd like to infect Eden Sinclair with my virus!!!! 4 stars
1/09/09 daibead Nice to read this, I agree totally with all of your review, a guilty pleasure. 5 stars
12/15/08 Spence Massive Fail. 1 stars
9/05/08 G-Man A witch's brew of B-Movie action heaven ! Over the top! 4 stars
8/25/08 dr satan AWSOME its better then a penut butter pickle sandwich 5 stars
8/23/08 greensweater Thunderdome called, they want their movie back 2 stars
8/18/08 Nester-san This movie rocks on so many levels, total action satisfaction, reminded me of the old VHS g 5 stars
8/08/08 GC rips off Escape NY, mad max and Braveheart? 2 stars
8/07/08 mike cool beheadings and stuff but the movie was ridiculous 3 stars
7/12/08 Jon If you like the genre you'll love it, if you don't you'll be able to tolerate it. 5 stars
6/04/08 Jayson Horrible. Just plain horrible. 1 stars
4/17/08 Benne Rex All my favorite movies sewn together and given new life!! 5 stars
4/06/08 Stephanie Bruce I didnt like it it seemed like a recycled version of half dozen movies 1 stars
4/03/08 Colleen Cousineau Another fun gory movie, not all blood and guts have to be serious. 4 stars
4/02/08 shaw Fun. Cult. Graphix. 4 stars
3/27/08 dc shuck great movie, future cult movie 5 stars
3/26/08 NoRefill Stupidity reigns. Suspend all sensibility if you see this. 2 stars
3/21/08 mr.mike well done 4 stars
3/19/08 ES Graphic and unapologetic- epic, can't wait to own the DVD 5 stars
3/19/08 Servo A fun (and funny as hell) movie that should be a cult classic. I hope it finds its audience 4 stars
3/17/08 Wolfrider About an hour in, I turned to the GF and said Ya know, we CAN ask for our $$ back - SUX 1 stars
3/16/08 Will A thoroughly fun and entertaining film. This reviewer misses the point! 5 stars
3/16/08 jonny twotimes another director that TOTALLY RIPS-OFF 28 DAYS LATER, who's next? 1 stars
3/16/08 arnie Great fun. This reviewer completely missed the point. 5 stars
3/15/08 KingNeutron Laughably, HORRIBLY bad movie -- avoid wasting your $$ on it 1 stars
3/14/08 Max Rockatansky Hmm...wonder where he got some of his ideas? 2 stars
3/14/08 stacy berg I thought it was kind of violent 3 stars
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  14-Mar-2008 (R)
  DVD: 29-Jul-2008



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