Independence Day weekend! Time to get drunk, do some coke, and eat your friends! At least that’s what’s going on for our little group of six: leading man Steve (Danny Zaporozan), sassy best friend of color Bash (Behtash Fazlali), token Black guy Wheeler (Ian Collins), Steve’s girlfriend Brie (Debs Howard), Wheeler’s girlfriend Trish (Kylee Bush) and the other one, Rox (Marina Pascua). Their plans involve going to a secluded cabin and partying their faces off. Literally, it turns out, as the cocaine they’re doing contains a human-made neurotropic virus that turns them into rage zombies straight out of 28 Days Later.
It’s not a movie widely loved by critics, so I went in thinking it might be cheap or technically amateurish. I was taken by the opening, which shows people literally bathing in blood to a metal tune. It’s oddly beautiful, and it looks entirely professional. The next few scenes were competently acted with what looks like quality cameras, and I concluded in my notes that “This isn’t horrible.” I continued to think so until about two-thirds of the way through when the movie, never full-on scary to begin with, becomes unintentionally funny. The characters with the virus (the guys anyway–for some reason women just hunker down and bawl) start acting like territorial velociraptors, pouncing on each other and snarling. It should not be funny when someone we’re supposed to care about rolls off of a roof or falls into a fire, but damn if I didn’t laugh when it happens.
Half of the main characters are likable. Brie is pretty cool. She has medical knowledge, and she can work a CB radio. She’s the only one sharp enough to ask questions like, “Are there any other doors?” when the first of them goes berserk and is lurking outside. She doesn’t do drugs with her friends, not because she’s a prudish final girl but because she had a past problem. Bash is cute and funny (though his habit of delivering almost all of his dialogue in exaggerated goofy voices gets old after a while). Steve is vanilla on all levels but overall pleasant. Meanwhile, Rox’s entire personality is that she’s longing to get into Bash’s shorts, and Trish is insufferably snobby. Wheeler comes across as an okay guy, but severely troubled. He stands out as the only Black person–not just among the leads but in the entire movie–and he’s a criminal. A segment with detectives investigating a separate drug-related murder reveals Wheeler’s extensive record for violent assault.
A resounding theme in the movie is that drugs are bad (mmmkay?). In one exceedingly heavy-handed scene a character looks square at Wheeler, who brought the cocaine and also expositionally dealt some to b-plot Zoe (Tatyana Forrest), and whines “You did this.” Immediately, the camera cuts to all the dead bodies lying around from the span of the movie. It might be okay for the filmmakers to make Wheeler Black (especially if he wasn’t the only Black person around) if they were emphasizing the issue of drug use in inner city neighborhoods (or, alternately, instead of a felon, making him as rich and spoiled as Trish, turning the angry Black guy stereotype that they went with on its head), considering the plotline that the government is behind the infections, mirroring the real-life theory that the CIA purposely distributed crack among the poor, but the main focus of the movie is how Wheeler singlehandedly ruins the lives of upper class white folks.
Overall, I found it entertaining but majorly flawed. I honestly don’t know if the bits I was impressed by (like the authentic feel of the friends having fun or the scene with the main antagonist’s wife–not spoiling that for you further) can counter the white privilege so heaped up that it’s almost physically palpable. Maybe do it for Bash?