There have already been FrightFest-screened zombie apocalypse movies about people trapped in a lift (In un Giorno la Fine/The End?) and a toilet (Stalled), so Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie) – the protagonist of this French-made contribution to the thriving genre — oughtn’t really complain about being confined to a relatively spacious Parisian apartment – with limited access to other flats in the block, and a roof with a great view of the city – though the fact that he isn’t scrabbling every moment to keep monsters out gives him time to descend into a particularly gallic kind of existentialist ennui.
Scripted by Guillaume Lemans, Jeremie Guez and director Domninique Rocher from a novel by Pit Agarmen, this owes much to Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, down to the musing that if almost everyone is one of the frothing living dead then being just alive becomes abnormal – though the late-in-the-film appearance of another, perhaps better-adapted survivor (Golshifteh Farahani) gets round folks who remember the book well by echoing one of Matheson’s plot turns but then springing a different twist to turn the screw on the hapless, holed-up hero. In an effective opening, Sam turns up at the flat of his ex Fanny (Sigrid Bouaziz) to pick up a box of his prized music (on cassette tapes) and finds her having a raucous party he wasn’t invited to. After a brush with Fanny’s aggressive new boyfriend, Sam locks himself in a back room and conks out … oblivious to the party sounds which segue into screaming and smashing. The next day, he wakes up to find that most of the population have become feral, murderous goons – though it’s never specified whether they’re zombies, vampires, cannibals or merely insane (the cast list includes ‘zombie loge’, ‘zombie fenetre’, etc). And he hasn’t.
A gun blast through the floor reveals that a downstairs neighbour has shot himself to get out of the chaos, prompting Sam to dig through the ceiling to scavenge his shotgun – though he idly pots zombies in the streets with a paintball weapon rather than use up his limited ammunition. A lone zombie (Denis Lavant) is trapped in the building’s lift and unable to get at him – he calls the gurning creature Alfred and sometimes has long talks with him. Besides foraging for food and doing the 28 days later … buckets-and-bowls-on-the-roof-for-rainwater trick, Sam is at a bit of a loose end. Loud noises attract the pack, so he defies them by setting up a drum kit and performing frenzied solos. And a great deal of attention is spent to his daily round of pottering. Otherwise, not much happens and there’s little in the way of traditional ZA survivalism – making this perhaps the first zombie movie to seem heavily influenced by The Pianist, concentrating on the state of Sam’s mind as he goes crazy from isolation rather than stressing the acute peril he’s in. It’s chilly and witty rather than exciting and frightening, and may well prove too slight to command attention in a playground that continues to be overrun with more zombie apocalypse movies than the most dedicated completist can watch.