A French horror that generates positive buzz rarely plays by the rules, and La Nuit a Dévoré le Monde [The Night Eats the World] is no exception. A post-apocalyptic tale in which a man wakes up the morning after a party only to find he is alone with the undead roaming the streets of Paris, this zom-drama is a portrait of loneliness, taking cues more from Cast Away than 28 Days Later or I Am Legend.
Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie) has had a rough night. He’s popped over to his ex’s flat to pick up a box of old tapes, only to have to negotiate said trade during a raging party she’s co-hosting with her new boyfriend. Nursing one glass of whisky and staring at the walls, he finally has enough when a random body check gives him a nosebleed and he shuts himself up in an empty room with his head leant back (that’s a no-no – it should be forward!). Then, like many of us at a party at which we don’t want to be, he falls asleep.
He wakes to empty, bloodied rooms, and sporadic wanderings from obvious zombies. Luckily Sam doesn’t waste any time adjusting to his new surroundings (he’s probably seen a zombie movie or two), and eventually manages to secure the building as well as scavenge long-term supplies from the other apartments. He’s now stocked up – everything from medical supplies to a drum kit, and he gets to have it all in an apartment that literally looks like the one from the Coco Chanel advert. But, at the same time, he’s alone, bored, captive. The internet is probably broken, and his only ‘companion’ is an elderly zombie trapped in cage elevator.
It’s a decently paced hour and a half, but does have its sloggy moments, and at times you wonder where the film is going and how it might end. When it does, you might feel cheated after such a slow build, but go in knowing that your experience with this film should not be focussed on its closing moments, but the quietly odd slice-of-life vignettes that preceded it.
As Sam, Lie is tasked with carrying the film, but it’s a strained performance from a Norwegian actor who is being directed to unnaturally deliver his dialogue in English, but in a French accent. Given that there’s barely any dialogue, it could have just been in French, or Lie could have used his native accent to speak in English. Regardless, it’s a small detail that doesn’t detract too much from the positive.
It’s an intriguing blend of isolation drama and zombie thriller – the danger of loneliness, boredom and cabin fever (especially in a big city) is neatly woven with the threat of the undead hordes outside Sam’s building. There are pockets of plot threads that surprise as well as devastate, and it’s worth watching for these alone; fresh angles are always a welcome addition to this genre.