DVD Review: Descendents

While there are many problems with Descendents, a horror film out of Chili shot in English, the biggest one is the DVD cover. It shows a hoard of zombies coming straight for the camera making the potential viewer think that what they are getting is just another gory low-budget zombie film. And while there certainly are zombies in Descendents, or Solos as it was originally called, they don’t serve the same purpose that they do in your average zombie film.

Writer/Director Jorge Olguín has crafted himself a very original story. Taking place far in the future, humans exist in a world where an airborne virus turns them into zombies (as does your typical zombie bite), so the remaining humans all live in giant protected domes while soldiers attempt to rid the world of the undead. In the last few years children have started being born with a mutation that allows them to breath the air and not get infected. This mutation being three gill-like cuts on either side of their neck.

The story tells the story of Camille (nine-year-old Camille Lynch) who wandering alone through the desolate wasteland after the protective dome her and her mother (Karina Pizarro) were living in is breached by zombies. The scientists that were studying Camille to see why she was different, along with everyone else, are brutally slaughter by the zombies. So Camille wanders alone trying to find her way to the sea which were her mother’s final words before turning. These are the best moments of the film. Much of the film is told through Camille’s voice over and these scenes of Camille wandering while explaining what is going on are actually interesting.

The other odd thing about Camille and the other new children is that the undead show no interest in them. A zombie will approach Camille, but never attack. After a while Camille meets up with other children like her and they continue the quest to the sea. However, there are soldiers every where trying to kill them. I can only assume the soldiers think they are zombies. This point is never made clear. On several occasions the children are saved when zombies attack the soldiers. So there in lies another twist. The other humans become the bad guys in the film and the zombies almost serve as some kind of protector to the children. These are the scenes that don’t work. The actions scenes are really choppy and overflow with slow motion and fast motion footage making them very hard and annoying to follow.

The end of the film I can’t tell you as it is a surprise and a nice surprise at that. In fact, such a nice surprise that while I was annoyed most the film I was thoroughly entertained by the ending. At an hour and three minutes before credits, this film is still too long, but if you’ve got an hour to spare, the last three minutes are totally worth your time and almost make the journey worthwhile.

This is absolutely a low budget film, which I have no problem with. I love low budget films. But what irritated me was the over use of CGI blood, especially CGI blood splattering on the camera lens. This happens several times throughout the film and gets more and more maddening every time.

The film meanders way to often an scenes go on much longer than they should. The flashbacks (of which there are many) are told in a very disjointed fashion, which is fine, but many of the flashbacks repeat themselves. To the point where I was shouting “Yeah! I’ve already seen this! Get on with it!” at the screen more than once. A good editor could have brought this film down to a 30 minute running time and it probably would have been awesome.

What made me not hate the film was Camille. For just being nine she is a great leading lady and she caries this entire film on her young shoulders. Her voice over work is great and made even more impressive by the fact that English is her second language. That’s right, she, and every other actor in this film, is Chilean, but the director wanted to shoot the film in English to give it more universal appeal. Learning this made that much more impressed with Camille’s performance.

Sadly, the rest of the film does not stand up to her acting. It meanders way too often and repeats scenes where it is absolutely needless. While original the story is very strange and made even stranger by that awesome ending I was alluding to earlier. Descendents isn’t outright horrible, but it’s a mediocre film with a great little budding actress in it.

The film is presented in a 2.35:1 widescreen format and 5.1 Dolby Digital surround. All the footage in the film has been digitally altered to look more post apocalyptic, which is kind of annoying. I feel like this is something that could have been done on the set. The soundtrack is okay, but a little too repetitive. At times it sounds like something off Moby’s Play album, other times I expected Bono to start singing any moment.

Making of: (28 min.) I think it’s worth pointing out that this making of is just about half as long as the movie itself. Not a bad making of, you certainly see where the director was coming from with this film.

It’s hard for me to recommend Descendents, because I can’t say it was a good film. However, Camille Lynch’s performance was very solid and the final scene should be seen by all. If you go in knowing it’s not a typical zombie film and that it’s going to meander a lot, maybe you’ll have a better viewing experience than I did.

Lionsgate presents Descendents. Written by Jorge Olguin and Carolina Garcia. Directed by: Jorge Olguin. Starring: Camille Lynch and Karina Pizarro. Running time: 75 min. Rating: R for violence and disturbing images. Released: May, 25 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

Tags: ,