It can be easy for modern zombie movies to all feel like carbon copies of one another at a certain point. Zombies chase humans; humans run and hide out and arm themselves and join up with other humans to form larger groups; zombies eventually pick off humans one-by-one, turning them into zombies too; one or two people usually survive at the end to fight another miserable day.
In the new gut-muncher, Les Affamés (translated as The Ravenous), director Robin Aubert doesn’t necessarily reinvent this series of events but he does breathe fresh life (or death?) into stale tropes. Setting his apocalypse in the remote Quebec countryside, Aubert has made a zombie movie that revels in its genre trappings while having ample time for odd diversions and character explorations.
Following a motley crew, including Marc-André Grondin and Monia Chokri, as they wander endless fields and desolate villages just hoping to avoid the hordes, the story progresses at a leisurely place with the characters often seeming exhausted or even somewhat bored with the situation. Surprisingly, a strong French new wave presence is felt throughout, evoking the crazy pastoral saga of Godard’s Weekend mixed in with the hazy naturalism of a Rohmer film.
When the undead show up, however, the tone immediately shifts into a more ominous gear. Switching between creepy trance-like behavior and the usual wailing and relentless attacking, the zombies here are seriously unsettling, ready to pop out and surprise our heroes at any given moment. Employing wide shots and long takes, Aubert keeps us scanning the frame for any sign of suspicious movement.
At the same time, Aubert also has a wicked sense of humour and a knack for the surreal that he experiments with, most notably with a supporting character named Demers – a doofus who keeps appearing out of nowhere to annoy our characters before promptly disappearing. Trust me when I say his scenes are worth the price of admission alone.
If you’re familiar with zombie movies, you’ll know where the plot of Les Affamés is ultimately headed but by the time we get to the delirious, blood-soaked climax, we’re too invested in this off-kilter journey to mind.
Is Les Affamés essential viewing?
Give this one a chance. Aubert is yet another talented up-and-coming director from Quebec and this is one of the more intriguing zombie flicks to come along in some time.