Just when you thought the zombie sub-genre was rotting in the water, along comes an intrepid little flick to revive it.
That would be Endzeit, helmed by Carolina Hellsgård and hailing all the way from Germany. Ignore any posters (including the one at the top of this post) that fool you into thinking it’s some kind of spunky Zombieland-esque comedy – this disquietingly quiet film is nuanced through slow-burn world-building and rounded, flawed – and sometimes maddening – characters.
Of which, we really mostly get the two: Eva (Maja Lehrer), the hard-nosed survivor getting the weaker ones in line to fix fences and green their thumbs; and Vivi (Swantje Kohlhof), the maudlin, meek waif who has the same terrified reaction we all would to a zombie attack. Each of the girls has an objective: Eva to get to the next city and Vivi to find her sister, but the two must cooperate and find a common wavelength to help each other survive.
On paper and in other hands, this set-up might tread the same worn boards as any other mismatched buddy road movie, but Olivia Vieweg‘s script takes the pair on a geographical and emotional journey tinged with haunting imagery and bittersweet dialogue amid Leah Striker‘s lush, dreamlike photography of the film’s Black Forest setting. In fact, there are so many beautiful props, prosthetics and set decorations that I found myself screenshotting something in between zombie attacks.
As for the undead themselves, they – and their pathology – are something I’ve never seen before, and echoes the existential philosophising of The Girl With All The Gifts, but with a devastatingly relevant eco-slant.
But the story isn’t wholly about the undead. Both lead performances are compelling, and the two are a joy to watch as they get to know each other – through distrust, frustration, and holes in anti-friendship armour – in roles we tend to see reserved for men. This is a road movie in which the destination is as engrossing as the journey itself, which is full of surreal surprises and the darkly magical unpredictability of your favourite old fairy tales. See it and be pleasantly haunted for days afterwards.