Review: What Doesn’t Kill Us

Directed by Ethan Cartwright, Jacob Kiesling, Zach Schlapkohl, with Schlapkohl having also written the film. Getting a job promotion, running for governor, making it to the major leagues, none of these are easy, but when you’re a rehabilitated zombie (excuse me, necrosapien), let’s just say – being dead was way easier. Starring: Peyton Paulette, Tevia Loeser, Christian Hopson, Richard Scott Jr., Russell Hightower, Reynolds Washam, Bill Small, and Mark Johnston.

The film opens like it’s a classic ad campaign for living the great American life, except for the fact that they’re explaining the ways that people discriminate against zombies, and how they’re factually incorrect. It’s funny and clever, a really nice way to set things off on a high note and the choice of the politically correct term for zombies being necrosapiens was a very nice touch. It very quickly starts to feel as though the human characters are treating them in the classic, “I’m not racist, but…” way that you’ll find recurring on a daily basis in America and that vibe is a good lead into the theme of the film, which is racism and bigotry. That sounds very serious so don’t worry, the film very strongly continues in its mockumentary and comedy genre but it’s very, very thinly veiled commentary on life in America runs rampant throughout.

Very quickly the film starts to take swings at the widespread discrimination and prejudice in the US, particularly in the south with them setting in Texas, using zombie-ism as a metaphor for racism, homophobia and just all out closed mindedness works perfectly. It’s completely on the nose, you’d have to have been living under a rock to miss it but that’s why it’s funny, they’re not trying to hide or be sly about it, it’s bold faced honesty, in parody form. It’s as if the guys behind the film sat down and asked, how can we make a film that’s funny but also points out America’s unbelievable problem with ignorance? And the answer was to change the prejudice to being aimed at zombie’s, it sounds so simple to say it that way but it’s actually extremely crafty.

Asking your actors to give their performances while their faces and/or necks are covered in a bunch of zombie makeup, is a telling question of if they can take themselves seriously while looking dead, turns out they all can. All the performances hit the right note of drama parody, despite looking deceased they all give convincing portrayals, although Tevia Loeser does play a human and she does a great job, her character is probably top of the heap, she’s funny and extremely extra with her political dedication.

It does stumble a little bit with timing when it gets into its later moments, realistically the same probably could have been achieved in around 70-minutes rather than 90. There’s also a few gags that run a little too long and it starts to ask viewers to care more about the characters in a dramatic sense and their journey, which is reaching slightly given its mockumentary foundation. It would have been more satisfying to instead see it double down on the premise of hitting out at bigotry and end with a bang rather than a more sentimental note.

The concept is fantastic, the humour is entirely on point, the cast are great and it sends a brilliant message about the ridiculous amount of prejudice going on in America. It could be shorter but it’s an enjoyable watch and surprisingly relatable for a film about dead people.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

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