Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Turner Clay
Writer: Turner Clay
Producer: Turner Clay, John Will Clay
Stars: Jay Hayden, Tori White, Scott Lilly, Kathryn Todd Norman, McKenna Jones
After a chemical factory explosion, four people take refuge inside a warehouse while the deadly outbreak spreads infection outside.
Midway through “State of Emergency,” I was reasonably certain my review would skew negative. The pacing was slow. Some of the budgetary seams showed. Initial spots of acting seemed unsure. Certain elements felt underdone while others felt overdone. (There is a reused music sting that ramps up with the expectation of an epic atom bomb explosion when really it is just a door opening.) However, I still felt drawn into the events onscreen. The movie seemed boring, yet I was not bored. What I came to realize was that expectations regarding what this movie actually is were erroneously set by some misleading Marketing artwork and promotional blurbs.
I would be curious to learn how director Turner Clay would classify his own movie, but I suspect that the decision to feature the word “zombie” and depict screaming creatures grabbing with scarred arms is primarily a promotional ruse. As of this writing, zombies are still a hot commodity and any distributor would be a fool not to maximize sales by categorizing “State of Emergency” in that genre. This may be a bit of a spoiler, but take notice that one is liable to see more zombies on the DVD/Blu-ray box cover than in the actual film.
More suitable single words are not readily used to accurately pinpoint this movie’s genre. Perhaps a more apt categorization would be an apocalypse film. But for lack of a better descriptor, it is ostensibly a zombie film so I may as well refer to it as such. Like the best zombie films though, the focus is not on the monsters, but on how human beings react to rapidly altering societal conditions. In fact, just to be clear, allow me to restate once more: anyone out for pure zombie carnage will be met with disappointment. This is intentionally not that brand of movie.
In many zombie films, the fight for survival is portrayed as a never-ending battle, both against creatures and against fellow survivors. Life is so wholly consumed with constant gunfire, running, and crippling depression over the whole dismal situation that it is a wonder anyone would choose to survive at all. “State of Emergency” depicts the apocalypse more akin to how I imagine it would actually play in reality: a lot of waiting around holed up inside a nondescript shelter occupying each day with excruciating boredom. I for one appreciated this realistic depiction of outbreak survival.
The first half hour of the film follows a lone survivor named Jim. After confronting his first infected, Jim receives a phone call. The man on the other end claims that he saw Jim’s lights and heard gunshots. After Jim reveals he is alone, he receives an invitation to join the survivors at a warehouse down the hill. They have food and water and claim, “you are more than welcome to join us.” Having read over 100 issues of “The Walking Dead” and having seen ten times that number in similarly themed films, my imagination immediately went through all the scenarios of how Jim was going to be screwed. If zombie fiction has taught anything, it is that just about any survivor will cut his own mother’s throat to gain the slightest advantage, and no one is ever to be trusted. Guess what? The man on the other end of the phone was not lying. When Jim makes it to the warehouse, he is greeted with food, water, and a cot, and nothing is asked of him in return. (Plus, if Jim is a baseball fan, the man welcoming him to the warehouse looks just like a young Mike Piazza.) This may be the first time I have ever seen apocalypse survivors without ulterior motives or immediate suspicions of every single person encountered.
So how does one pass time while facing the apocalypse without a need to scavenge supplies or to constantly fend off attackers as if inside a real-life game of “Left 4 Dead?” By waiting. And thinking. And wondering. It may not make for constantly exciting entertainment, and this is where “State of Emergency” will lose those who demand nonstop action at the end of the world, but it is quietly engaging.
It certainly helps that news broadcasts explain that the infection is limited to just one county. The survivors here have more reason to hope. It is still a bleak portrayal of suffering loss and coping with radically adjusted lives, but it is not as desperate or manic as the widespread desolation of a Romero film. Even with a total zombie population that can be counted on two hands, the menace still feels present. Thrill mongers need not apply. “State of Emergency” is for those seeking a thoughtful approach on how to survive the apocalypse.
Review Score: 70