State of Emergency
April 15, 2013 (U.S. DVD)
Jay Hayden as Jim
Tori White as Alex
Scott Lilly as Scott
‘State of Emergency’ reveals the upside to biotoxin zombies: They are a great way to make friends with some very dull people.
An explosion at a chemical plant in Montgomery County unleashes a bio-toxin that infects many of the residents of a nearby town. The infected become ravenous for the flesh of the uninfected and begin rampaging. Before long, the US military quaranteens the area and begins search missions for survivors. Jim has lost his fiancée in the recent rampage and finds safety in an abandoned horse ranch. After a close encounter with an infected individual who snuck inside, he learns of three survivors in the neighboring slaughterhouse and joins them with two rifles and a box of ammo. As the days pass, more and more of the infected begin appearing outside. Can they keep them at bay before the military rescues them?
State of Emergency is a beginner zombie horror film. In fact, it’s probably the lightest approach (outside of horror comedy) I’ve seen in the zombie subgenre. Although technically only infected with a bio-toxin, those infected prey on the uninfected with the same tenacious resolve as the Dawn of the Dead remake and share the same crazed look as those from 28 Days Later. Although we can dub them ‘bio-toxin zombies’, this is only about half a zombie movie. Some of them seem to be able to talk, but their nature is not so much the issue as the situation they create. Much of what makes a good zombie movie is the crushing loneliness we feel as the survivors realize that society has crumbled and they ultimately face death alone. This effect is absent because viewers know the impact is localized and that US is sending in troops to rescue our protagonists.
Furthermore there are very few bio-toxin zombies. Although there are a couple brief but intense scenes, most zombie attack scenes feature a zombie sprinting towards a survivor before a door slams, or a bullet blows its head off. Once more, during each ‘close call’ most of the camera time is focused on the sprint – not the fun stuff that follows. These one-on-one struggles are the only treats in our bag of zombie goodies and many of them are a little sour. . Forget about mass zombie attacks, or zombies closing in on survivors and pulling out organs, or bodies being ripped apart – anything that makes a zombie movie fun for horror fans.
Not only is this mostly a blood-free enterprise, but the scares which at first seem to be waiting around every corner, don’t materialize. Any attempt at a disturbing theme is muted with the knowledge that life goes on just fine everywhere else and probably will for our band of survivors once they escape. The story drags in places, but there are also some surprises. Jay Hayden ably handles the lead role of Jim – a man who lacks time for grief and takes charge when others falter. Scott Lilly’s performance as the younger and less savvier sidekick is dismal and every line from his mouth (and there are many) detracts from the believability of the situation. Yet, the directing is decent and the cinematography is above average.
The combined characteristics of the film make for a dull viewing experience. Because there is not much bio-toxin zombie action, the burden of the story falls on the less than compelling character interaction. The people involved are not the most interesting due to a combination of poor acting and carbon-copy characterization. Once more, the audience sees a way out to their situation. Romero’s living dead leaves viewers constantly searching for an escape for the characters involved but not finding one – creating an intense and rapt experience. Yet State of Emergency is the story of a localized event. There is plenty of room for an unpredictable conclusion, but sadly that opportunity was not seized. Instead viewers are left in a relatively safe place throughout.
Bottom Line: Not a bad place for an unassuming novice to begin feeling around the zombie genre, but horror fans can skip this one. Unless this strangely heavy-handed moral interests you: Biotoxin zombies – a great way to meet new people and make dull friends.