★ / ★★★★
With the bar set quite high by successful zombie movies such as Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later,” Zack Snyder’s remake of “Dawn of the Dead,” even Edgar Wright’s hilarious spoof “Shaun of the Dead,” and hearkening all the way back to George A. Romero’s classic “Night of the Living Dead,” Bo Mikkelsen’s “Sorgenfri,” also known as “What We Become,” by comparison and on its own, comes across as lazy, unexciting, and desperately lacking inspiration. It aims to capture the ennui of suburbia and horror suddenly struck by it, but the writing fails to provide rich and convincing details that inspire the viewers to peer closer.
One might consider at first that the picture is a satire or a spoof considering that its characterization of the protagonist follows the tired and true formula of a hormonal male teenager. During the first fifteen minutes, we learn that Gustav (Benjamin Engell) likes to skateboard, he is consistently moody in the face, and doesn’t appreciate being asked by his parents to put away his belongings—in this case a sweatshirt—so that the house would remain clean and in order. He even likes to spy on his new next door neighbor, Sonja (Marie Hammer Bona), using binoculars as she changes clothes in her bedroom.
But the picture is neither meant to be a satire nor a spoof; it is meant to be taken as a serious horror film. What results is a far from engaging look into a community struck by an unknown disease and government agents are assigned to contain it—no matter what the cost. Clearly, the writing is one of the main problems. Aside from a deadly dull and unlikable protagonist, it fails to make the members of the community even remotely interesting. They are merely sheep to be slaughtered once an infected is within the vicinity. But without an air of humor or white-knuckle tension, one cannot help but wonder at the point of it all.
At some point, I wondered if the material is meant to be an exercise in brutality. After all, there are numerous movies that follow this trail within the horror genre. But it doesn’t work on that level either because there is a lack of blood, creativity in the kills, and the zombie attacks are quite standard, oftentimes predictable since we almost always hear them from a few feet away before they go for a bite. The film offers a dour experience. At one point our main character sneaks his way into a school and sees corpses being hauled away by trucks as if they were merely trash in black plastic bags.
Filmmakers of successful movies featuring the undead understand this idea: A zombie film is not just a zombie film. Zombies serve as a metaphor or metaphors. The horrible situations the characters find themselves in merely serve as commentary toward a certain aspect of our modern society. Humor—even dark humor—is almost always present because we are meant to laugh—or snicker a little bit inside—at or with those on screen for they are a reflection of ourselves. Successful zombie flicks offer a catharsis. Notice how this movie ends… or doesn’t end. It is sloppy and it gives the impression that not much thought is put into it. It doesn’t respect our intelligence or our time.