Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Di Ingon Nato (Not Like Us)

Di Ingon Nato (Not Like Us)
Directed and Written by Ivan Zaldarriaga and Brandon Relucio

Pretty much everything you can say through the mouthpiece of zombies, George Romero has: consumerist satire, dystopian nihilism, anti-science screed, first person shooter stress relief. You have oddments like Robin Campillo's terrific Les Revenants (They Came Back) that pass the trope through a sieve of melancholia, becoming instead a meditation on the dynamics of grief, but nearly everything else is a haggard riff of some law Romero's laid down, no matter how vibrant, how agog, how beloved.

Di Ingon Nato (Not Like Us) is a riff, too, but one that gets escape velocity from transposing its doomy sense of isolation to a rural milieu, and rural here means our far-flung Third World boondocks, where people get around on rickety diesel mopeds and beatup pickups, what passes for a hospital is an undermanned and under-equipped clinic, combat-readiness boils down to jungle knives and single-shot rifles, and no one is as steeped in the lore enough to know that head shots save bullets and buys time. And the zombies here are not the undead of legend, the sort these folks have names for and dispatch with magic, but rather the ones borne of unfathomable contagion and go viral at cheetah speeds. No social realist indie for miles has tapped into, as this has, the backward conditions and fatal ill-preparedness of half the country for any sort of calamity.

But its second half, set in a nameless town, where all this panic and vulnerability is meant to curdle into a delicious hysteria, is a badly-acted gruesomely-imagined crudely-staged shambling lack of anywhere to go. Granted, the version I saw was a work-in-progress, and you could snipe a volatile shape in all that meander and confusion, but many darlings need to be killed, and the editing prudent to the point of unmerciful, if any of this were to cohere, let alone survive its first half hour or so. Set in a nearby forest, where a farmer and his wife and their son eke out what meager life they can from the land, and an interloper darkness creeps in to upset their fragile balance, that half-hour is a gumbo of bucolic desolation shading inexorably into apocalyptic dread. It's an amazing, fearsome mixture. And a zombie riff with legs. Just too bad they had to go to town without it.

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