The Night Eats the World Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Blue Fox Entertainment
Directed by Dominique Rocher
Written by Pit Agarmen (novel), Jérémie Guez, Guillaume Lemans, and Dominique Rocher (screenplay)
2018, 93 minutes, Not Rated
Released on July 13th, 2018
Anders Danielsen Lie as Sam
Golshifteh Farahani as Sarah
Denis Lavant as Alfred
Sigrid Bouaziz as Fanny
David Kammenos as Mathieu
Ah, the French…they somehow manage to make things that we've seen before look so damn classy (and a little dirty at the same time). I don't know what's in the alchemic brew that is nestled in their very DNA, but it's on full display in the arthouse zombie film, The Night Eats the World.
Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie, Oslo, August 31st) is an agoraphobic who's just exited a relationship with Fanny (Sigrid Bouaziz, Personal Shopper). He comes to a rocking party at her place in search of a treasured box of cassette tapes that he left behind. After getting into a dustup with her new boyfriend, Mathieu (David Kammenos, Transporter 3), Sam gets quite drunk and passes out in a back room. When he awakens, the world is drastically changed – everything is trashed, there's blood and gore all over the walls, and Paris has been overtaken by zombies. He hunkers down in the unfortunate but welcome solitude of the apartment building for survival and a forced new life.
The inspirations for this little gem are worn proudly on its sleeve. There's a heavy dose of 28 Days Later throughout (but particularly in the first act). The middle third is purely an homage to The Omega Man. The final throws you a twist that blends the two in an ambiguous (and only slightly unsatisfying) ending that nonetheless reflects perfectly the reality and humanity of how utterly awful Sam's situation would be whether you wanted everyone to just go away or not.
This is a gorgeous film – the stylish Parisian apartment building as a "one room" setting, the littered and obliterated streets, the frequent use of towering overhead shots to further visualize Sam's alienation, and the crushing loneliness in physical form. The Night Eats the World also excels on auditory level, contrasting paralyzing silence and the tension of hiding to survive with blasting punk-rock and musical inventiveness. Finally, it checks the necessary box on practical effects and effective gore on the sparse occasions it is called for.
There's really so much to enjoy. It's essentially a three-act, one-man show with just enough humanity thrown in to make you feel what life is like for those of us who do NOT prefer the company of many others. It's a theme that isn't new to zombie movies but is starkly front and center here. The scenes of Sam's slow battle with the loneliness he always wanted put a goofy smile on my face as he plays homemade musical instruments, jogs through the building with headphones on, and paintballs feature zombies (à la the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead).
Where I truly bought in was the relationship with Alfred, a zombie that's trapped behind the bars of the elevator. He's a captive audience for Sam, and what little dialogue there is happens as Sam smokes cigars and bounces his thoughts of the movie's "Bub". Who'd have thought that zombies could be heartwarming and provide poignancy in the worst of situations?
The arrival of Sarah provides a nice visual twist that also serves an artful expositional device. Sam must get out; the time has come to face the world (what's left of it anyways) or die trying. It's the logical conclusion that we would all reach under the circumstances. At some point we all go mad from loneliness. It's part of the human condition.
The Night Eats the World scores serious originality points for the use of silent zombies. No one argues that fast zombies are freaky, but when they come barreling at you in utter silence, it's pretty damn horrific to watch. That's the hook that will help people remember this one and give it a serious shelf life. I'll go so far as to say I can already smell an American remake of this sooner rather than later. I'd be on board for that, too…although this one is a hideously gorgeous French treat you might look right past if you're not looking.
You won't hear these silent bastards coming.