Dystopian flick lacks imagination

Sofia Lesaffre plays a teenager who takes on a faceless killer and a toxic fog.
Sofia Lesaffre plays a teenager who takes on a faceless killer and a toxic fog.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

REVIEW / THRILLER/HORROR

ALONE (NC16)

96 minutes/Opens tomorrow/ 2.5 stars

The story: Sixteen-year-old Leila (Sofia Lesaffre) wakes up one morning to find that her mid-sized French city is emptied of people. As she explores the town, she stumbles upon two frightened children, Terry (Jean-Stan Du Pac) and Camille (Kim Lockhart), and two other teenagers, Dodji (Stephane Bak) and Yvan (Paul Scarfoglio). Together, they must fight a faceless killer with superhuman powers and a toxic fog that threatens to engulf the city.

Everyone keeps saying that humour does not travel. But can zombies? And, in this case, can young-adult dystopian fiction?

This movie is a great example of how to make iconic American genres fit another culture - or rather, how not to, and will be instructive when, if rumours are right, a Singapore zombie movie goes into production.

Alone is based on a popular French graphic novel - similar to The Walking Dead television series (2010 to present) - and gets a couple of things right. But it is sunk by its mishandled tone and lack of imagination.

It begins with Leila stumbling around a desolate town filled with abandoned cars and empty malls, filmed by director David Moreau in a manner that suggests that he does not realise the number of times this scene has appeared elsewhere.

Moreau, who helmed horror movie The Eye (2008, adapted from the 2002 Hong Kong film) knows his genre cliches well - there are street and corridor chases with just-in-time escapes, mysterious killers with unknown motives, weird portents hidden in the mist - and applies them every few minutes.

Transplants are not impossible and non-American adaptations can be brilliant - British zombie movies 28 Days Later (2002) and the more comedic Shaun Of The Dead (2004) are examples.

These turn British idiosyncrasies into strengths. Survivors cannot find guns so must use whatever comes to hand as weapons and characters find ways to survive not like American heroes, but like frightened urbanites.

There is little of the customisation here. The result is a middling Hollywood-style slice of Stephen King-style horror, as featureless and faceless as the assassin haunting the survivors.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2017, with the headline 'Dystopian flick lacks imagination'. Print Edition | Subscribe