Yesterday (2009)

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 08/22/09 09:57:19

"You can believe in 'Yesterday'."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED AT THE 2009 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: As with many festival films, there's very little chance that most reading this review will ever see "Yesterday". It was made by a group of college students, on a tiny budget, and, objectively, doesn't do a whole lot that more polished zombie movies don't, even if it does on several occasions do it better. It's an achievement that the folks involved can be proud of, but which will likely get little attention or distribution unless someone involved gets famous for something else.

Yesterday was nothing special, which was a blessing when compared to today, when a nasty virus has popped up. You know the sort: The type that turns people all feral, with an undeniable hunger for human flesh that kicks in within hours of infection, allows them to shrug off what should really be crippling - or lethal - injuries, such that they can only be dispatched by causing massive trauma to the brain. It's just popped up in a small Canadian city, and there's only one thing to do: Find some supplies, check on your loved ones, and get to a less crowded, more defensible position. That applies to everybody, whether it be office drones Dave (Mike Fenske), Graham (Jesse Wheeler), and Spence; bullied high-schooler kid Andrew (John Fitzgerald), pro shooting champion Mike (Mike Kovac); Chris (Graham Wardle), about to propose to his girlfriend Sarah (Naomi Inglis); or small-time crooks Rob (Justin Sproule) and Lewis (Scott Wallis).

Six of these characters are thrown together by chance, in circumstances that are sure to cause trouble even before they get out of the city, much less when they have a little breathing room to consider who they're going to be sharing their campsite with. That's one of the basic engines which drives most zombie movies - or horror movies of any type - not knowing for sure whether the monster out there is worse than the bastard in here. Writer/director Rob Grant gets a lot of mileage out of this threat, to the point where the ghouls can become rather peripheral without the story or the tension suffering much at all.

In a way, that's actually a little bit of a problem. Sproule and Lewis make such an arresting duo of villains that the good guys have a hard time living up to them. The most chilling aspect of the movie is the way that what seems like a fairly conventional set-up - one of the pair really enjoys violence, while the other is squeamish - does not evolve into a redemption arc, but instead shows how crisis can expose the worst in what seem like reasonable people. The nominal hero of the group, Mike Kovac's sharpshooter, is very nice in his laid-back way despite having skills that come in useful during a zombie apocalypse, but he's not as likable as the others are despicable.

That aside, though, this is a respectable entry in the genre. Grant and company introduce not just characters, but entire subplots to be snuffed out fairly early despite having gotten more screen time than dead ends would usually get. This lends itself to a "no-one is safe" atmosphere that lasts all the way to the end. The cast isn't bad for this sort of movie, even without grading on a curve (most are likely Grant's friends and classmates). Action and gore effects are good, too - they won't knock your socks off, but they certainly get the job done.

If there were still grindhouses around, this would be an unexpectedly good movie to find in one. Instead, it's just going to impress folks on the fantastic film festival circuit, and maybe get some of the folks involved some work in the future. If you like zombies, this is worth digging up.

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