I’m always on the lookout for cool little films that could. These are productions that were made outside the corporate structures of Hollywood or government subsidies, independents working outside the box. You never know what could come along next and hope for a gem. I count Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins’ JIMMY’S END on that list, though the creators are very known quantities. What you hope for is something that came out of nowhere that takes you by surprise.
So imagine an indie zombie movie made at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Imagine it feature-length at 75 minutes, made for a budget of $3,500 (which is about $1,500 less than what I spent on my 25-minute-long thesis production at film school) and released it free online for everyone to see through a Creative Commons License. The whole movie is even up on Youtube if you to save some disc space.
Of course, the movie is not a masterpiece. It is a calling card project, a showcase for the talents involved. There are noble ideas behind it: the scientists and engineers at CERN thought it would be a good way to backdoor some science to the teens and students who might see the movie. They were working with the limitations of a small budget and a limited number of locations they were allowed to film in (none of the sensitive parts of the collider itself). The acting is variable in the way that Children’s British TV drama from the 1970s and 1980s tended to be. The general pacing could have used a bit more pep and sense of urgency, but the camerawork and editing are largely impeccable. The zombies do what zombies do, of course, the usual snarling and grabbing and nom-nom-noming, though they’re oddly low-key about it. Maybe it’s because they’re Swiss zombies.
It’s ungraceful of me to knock a movie, especially when it was given to us for free, but I’m a bit disappointed that with one of the coolest locations in the world for shooting a movie in, the filmmakers decided to make another zombie movie. I suppose in that respect the people at CERN have their fingers on the pulse in choosing zombies instead of something else as the hook of a horror movie. My disappointment is that, apart from the fact that zombies have become the prime comfort food of the horror genre, it seems a waste of the location and plot device that offered the greatest possibilities for imaginative ideas in the world.
When I think of the Large Hadron Collider, I think of Quantum Physics, Entanglement, Dark Matter, black holes, wormholes, even Lovecraftian elder gods, but hardly ever zombies. Zombies are a bit weaksauce compared to the genre riches you could pull to make a story out of the Large Hadron Collider.
The thing is, the Large Hadron Collider has become part of the pop culture zeitgeist almost as much as zombies have, only not as popularly. This is probably because the mainstream media doesn’t really understand enough about Physics to truly understand what it’s been discovering, though the initial fears of it accidentally creating black holes that might swallow up the Earth were not completely unfounded. We’ve had a TORCHWOOD radio play set at the official launch of CERN. Warren Ellis wrote one of his most interesting graphic novellas based on the implications of CERN.
We haven’t had that much pop fiction about the Large Hadron Collider. I suppose CERN is best used sparingly in genre fiction to avoid the fate that has befallen zombies. I hate to begrudge anyone who’s managed to get a movie made, and I’m sure it was a lot of fun for all those people to be extras as shambling zombies at CERN, but I would have liked a bit more wonder than DECAY has given us, which, being a horror movie, succumbs to the conservative attitude in Horror that “XXXX is bad for you!” For a project whose sponsors wanted to encourage more interest in Science, the movie ends up being as anti-science as most mainstream movies tend to be. I yearned for more far-out ideas like Time Dilation, Entanglement, Shadow Doubles, a lot of more high concept good stuff. I’m afraid modest zombies may not be enough these days.
It’s a time-honoured tradition for filmmaker starting out to make a low-budget horror movie because they’re commercially low-risk. They have a ready market that means they can generally be sold to make back the production costs. Horror movies have launched the careers of almost everyone from Sam Raimi to David Cronenberg to Oliver Stone. A movie made for the internet age, offered to viewers for free is playing a new and freer game, and it would be nice to see filmmakers take more creative risks.
Still, there are much worse ways to kill 75 minutes with.
You can download DECAY to keep at the movie’s website.
Staying Quantum at email@example.com
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Look! It Moves! © Adisakdi Tantimedh
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