Argentina, 2101. Civilisation has crumbled to sub-Mad Max 2 levels thanks to a plague that turns people into shuffling, decaying, moisture-free zombies called ‘secos’ (‘dry ones’) – an unusual, effective look which involves exposed bone, dusty innards and a slight echo of the Templars from the Blind Dead films or the occasional Mexican mummy movie. A grizzled survivor type (Esteban Prol) wakes up in a pile of corpses, suffering from the first stages of the disease – loss of memory – and is taken in by a patriarch (Horacio Fontoya) who offers refuge in his grimy compound, but actually has nasty (possibly cannibal) things in mind. His brood include two thug sons, Gris (Sergio Podeley) and Cerdo (Gaston Cocchiarale), and a tongueless, sullen girl, Iris (Fini Bocchino), who seems to have an especial gruge against the identity-stripped protagonist. Why does a female corpse hanging in an out-building stir latent memories? What’s with the three-intersecting-horseshoes tattoo also seen as a painted sign? What exactly do the degenerate clan want of the well-on-his-way-to-zombiedom man they call ‘Perro’ (Dog)? And how much more grim and depressing can this world get?
With the proliferation of zombie apocalypses in the last decades, it’s still unusual to build a film around the process of a main character losing humanity – and Prol is effective as a guy whose current blank slate befuddlement may actually be an improvement on who he was, though he’s still destined to be a monster of a sort before the film is out. Directors Daniel de la Vega (White Coffin) and Pablo Pares (the unrelated Plaga Zombie minifranchise), who co-wrote with Paulo Soria, dole out hints and flashbacks but never completely explain the situation – and there’s a late-in-the-film shift to suggest we’ve been following the wrong survivor’s story. The look is that bled-out colourless murk which has become a default for inexpensive downbeat apocalypses, though the gloom is relieved by flashes of gruesome humour thanks to the blunders of the still-human clan (one gag involves a slippery floor and a dangling meathook). There’s still horror to be had from the swarming living dead, though this works its way through a memory maze rather than builds up suspense.