While I was not really a very big fan of Neil Marshall’s first cult film Dog Soldiers, I found myself intensely enjoying his follow-up, The Descent. After The Descent stumbled at the box office but picked up a fan following, his latest film Doomsday caught a bit of buzz.
As expected, Doomsday fell somewhere between The Descent and Dog Soldiers in my spectrum of movies. The film tells a familiar story – a sudden virus infects the human population. In this version, the government has managed to quarantine the virus in Scotland by literally sealing off the country from the rest of the world.
However, 25 years after the quarantine, the virus has popped up again, this time in London. In order to save the world and political face, the Prime Minister sends a band of soldiers over the wall into Scotland to make contact with the survivors and bring back the cure. Leading the charge is Major Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra), whose mother was abandoned in the hot zone at the height of the quarantine.
Anyone who has seen Marshall’s movies will instantly recognize his style: visceral, bloody and violent. I suppose it’s not unwarranted, but there’s an awful lot of splattering going on. And, in the Dog Soldiers fashion, the film is packed with powerful, explosive action that doesn’t go over the top, but it definitely climbs right up to the precipice.
Like his other films, the story is rather simple. It’s not plot you look for in these movies, but rather the action and the wild ride, and Doomsday delivers that ride extremely well. Still, Doomsday has a bit more to it, paying homage to many different films in and around the genre. In fact, the best way to relate to the film is to follow the patchwork of films it represents.
The most noticeable correlation is to The Road Warrior and 28 Days Later. But Marshall gives a nod to a whole slate of action, sci-fi and horror throughout the film. It begins as 28 Days Later, then moves into an Aliens motif as the military team is decked out in armor and tanks before being attacked.
The film erupts into a war of attrition that takes place over 48 hours. From Aliens, the characters are stripped down and enter a world eerily similar to Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. After a brief jump back into 28 Days Later, the movie takes an unexpected turn into the BBC’s latest Robin Hood series. After all, who wouldn’t take refuge in a castle in Scotland.
After a brief flirt with Gladiator, the movie rolls underground to pick up some love for From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, then blasts back on the screen with some Death Proof shots. Finally, things roll out in a Road Warrior smack-down with dashes of Land of the Dead and I Am Legend thrown in for good measure.
While far from perfect, Doomsday can be a blast if you like the action, like the violence, endure the language and like watching Rhona Mitra strut around in tight, black spandex. In fact, Mitra owns the movie throughout, channeling Kate Beckinsale from the Underworld series. It’s no surprise that she’s been tapped to do the third installment of the vampire/werewolf saga.
Sadly, Doomsday wasn’t screened for the press and isn’t enjoying a huge release. It will probably get destroyed by the family-favorite (and great movie in its own right) Horton Hears a Who, leaving Neil Marshall to have to prove himself yet again outside of his die-hard audience.
The Upside: Rhona Mitra in tight pants.
The Downside: Mismarketed to the point of potential box office failure.
On the Side: I really, really thought Rhona Mitra was Kate Beckinsale when I first saw the trailers.