Carriers (2009)

Carriers is incredibly depressing. It is a solid, uninspired film that moves along at an expected pace and does nothing surprising. All it does competently is paint an incredibly grim picture of post-apocalyptic America, without humour and without love. This film will make you unhappy.

Beginning with a shameless attempt at poignancy, featuring old camera footage of a family having carefree fun on the beach, already Carriers pitches a huge sign saying “serious, po-faced and meaningful”, which is a dangerous thing to attempt in a horror film. We quickly cut to a group of absurdly sexy people travelling down a deserted dusty road in a flashy car topped with surfboards. Inside are two brothers and their girlfriends, all in their early twenties, all heading to a beach resort. At first everything seems normal, until they come across another car blocking the road containing a little girl with a deadly disease. This is when we realise the world is at the tail-end of a massive epidemic that has wiped out most of the population, and only a few survivors trawl the globe for supplies, petrol and hope.

Carriers is an interesting concept, a clever twist on end-of-the-world horror that is normally over-saturated by the living dead. The danger here is other people, not because they’re evil but because they might be diseased. We’re living in an alarmist world, hyped-up to believe every sneeze will kill you, so Carriers shows us a potential and realistic future, and if this is anything to go by then the future’s pretty damn dispiriting.

For a horror / thriller, Carriers is not particularly tense and shamelessly steals from many other movies – 28 Days Later and Jurassic Park are the most obvious – making it seem unoriginal and unconvincing. There are moments of tension and moments of real drama, but the majority of the film bumbles along at an awkward pace with no real invention.

Carriers does little more than yell “moral dilemma” really loudly. The plotting is confused and there’s a distinct lack of urgency that quickly becomes frustrating. Writers / Directors Alex and David Pastor beautifully portray the emptiness after the holocaust, the cinematography adding an increased sense of loneliness, and it is a refreshing change to the normally overly-populated post apocalyptica of hundreds of zombie films. There is of course the occasional nutcase driven mad by isolation & loss and the zombie-esque infected hell-bent on survival, but mostly it’s just four people trying to survive. Tragically those four people are horribly uncompelling.

Chris Pine’s Brian has stereotypical “arsehole big brother” syndrome over Ivy League sweet kid Danny (Lou Taylor Pucci), while Brian’s girlfriend Bobbi (Piper Perabo) is the ballsy female we’re supposed to like but find horribly reckless, and finally there’s Kate (Emily VanCamp), apparently not Danny’s girlfriend, who is just incredibly pointless. It is only a painfully short cameo by Christopher Meloni, playing a father desperately trying to find a cure for his infected daughter, which adds any sense of maturity to a film drowning in obvious and snortingly adolescent moral-confrontations.

The script is peppered in distressingly nihilistic expressions, with uplifting dialogue such as “They’ll die out there”, “Everyone dies” and the beautiful “Sometimes choosing life is just choosing a more painful form of death” bolstering our spirits and hopes. The moments of fun are so heavily punctuated and surrounded by morbid hopelessness that it’s a struggle to feel any enthusiasm about anything in Carriers.

Overall, the Pastors’ scripting is as poor as it is depressing, with characters wandering off on their own and idiotically not wearing their infection protection equipment all the time, like any sane person would. The infrequent flashbacks of better times seem entirely pointless, as if the acting and dialogue could not convincingly show how their circumstances have changed the characters and world around them. It takes itself far too seriously and is utterly joyless.

If you’re after hopelessness rather than a violent horror film, then watch Carriers. If you want a little less depression with your movie, head elsewhere, as this is a tough trudge through a well portrayed post-apocalyptic America that is confused, bumbling and not particularly original. Passable stuff.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

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