Six years after Edward Young’s (Mark Gibson) first encounter with an undead enemy soldier on a Tennessee battlefield during the American Civil War, he is forced to shoot his wife who has become one of the soulless monsters that now ravages the countryside. To add more heartache to his act, his son Adam has gone missing. Determined to find his child, Edward journeys further from his home in search, all along keeping a journal of his encounters (excerpts narrated by Brian Cox). Ultimately Edward locates his son, only to find that Adam has now become one of them, and he has no choice but to kill his only child.
Grief stricken with all meaning lost in his life, he attempts several acts of suicide but fails. Further disintegrating into inconsolable anguish his nightmares are punctuated with memories of his family, one of which was a promise to take Adam to Ellis Falls, a place that Edward discovered during the war. With one last task in his life, to fulfill the promise he made to his son, he burns his home and sets off with his child’s ashes on a harrowing journey filled with slaughtering as many of the undead as he can.
Eventually he meets up with Isaac (Adam Seybold), another former Confederate soldier who has lost family, his sister Emma (Jordan Hayes). Emma has been kidnapped and is being held captive in a bunker in which Medic Johnson (Stephen McHattie), under the orders of the fanatical General Williams (Bill Moseley), is conducting experiments on survivors to see if they are immune.
Isaac convinces Edward to assist in his planned rescue, which succeeds but leaves Edward severely wounded. Emma and Isaac take him to the only place they know, to the home of a woman who has been branded a witch. Eve (Dee Wallace) saves Edward’s life and as he slowly mends they eventually become friends. In time, Eve confides to Edward that she is responsible for all of the undead, having resurrected her murdered sister using an ancient ritual of revival from a scroll that was given to her. She tells him that her sister’s victims came back to life through the poison that was passed through her bite. Understanding Eve’s pain at having lost someone dearly loved, Edward forgives her. Finally healed, Edward is able to fulfill his unkept promise, and heads off to complete his quest and release his son’s ashes.
It’s obvious, when Edward leaves everyone behind, that General Williams and his renegade band will re-appear to capture Emma and exact retribution against the person who was harboring them. It is also clear that Edward has now found a reason to live when he tells Emma he will return, and he does with vengeance, leading a zombie horde to the bunker to destroy Williams and his men once and for all.
Written and directed by John Geddes, this post-Civil War zombie film rises above with a convincing period piece and an exceptional cast. Though it does not transcend the genre by breaking any new ground when it comes to zombies, it certainly should inspire a new standard for independent horror films with its earnest effort towards intelligence and an excellent effort at originality.
Exit Humanity is a relatively goreless zombie film—no flesh eating and entrails-unraveling—that focuses more on the human condition and resilience of the human spirit than on the zombie body count, though there is plenty of that. Gibson’s portrayal of the tortured and lost Edward is riveting, and though the beginning of the film is stark and bleak, the tone slowly progresses to one of optimistic hope.
The explanation of the scroll’s origins and the narrative recounting all the zombie uprisings recorded throughout history could have been eliminated and replaced with another of General Williams, which suffers from under development.
Moseley’s betrayal of the villainous General Williams was not as menacing as it could have been. This is no reflection upon Bill Moseley’s acting; for it was top notch and horror fans know how genuinely frightening and obsessive Moseley can be when portraying a well developed character (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Devil’s Rejects). It is a shame that Moseley was not given the opportunity to explore the character further.
Heavy on characterization with great attention given to cinematography, the pace of the film is sometimes slow, utilizing plot to drive the story instead of action, so hardcore zombiephiles may be left a little disappointed.
Now for the ratings…
Zombie Content: 6 – Though sometimes far and few between, when the undead do appear the effects are excellent considering the modest budget.
Entertainment Value: 7 – Putting aside the minor criticism in regard to the scroll, it is a compelling film that draws you in and keeps you there, but it is not a zombie film that will appeal to everyone; it is less about blood, gore and violence and more about storyline.
Defense and Tactics: 7 – Rifles, pistols, and bare handed combat.
Overall Rating: 20 of 30 – A dramatic and entertaining zombie period piece set to the backdrop of post-Civil War Tennessee with high regard to cinematography, visual effects, and character development with a gripping story.
Directed by John Geddes
Written by John Geddes
Cast: Brian Cox, Mark Gibson, Dee Wallace, Bill Moseley, Stephen McHattie and Jordan Hayes
Run Time: 114 minutes
DVD Release Date: June 19, 2012