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John’s Horror Corner: Cargo (2017), an “okay” Australian zombie movie starring Martin Freeman.

November 17, 2018

MY CALL: I’m sorry, but I expected much better from Netflix and far better from Martin Freeman. This film failed my interest. MOVIES LIKE Cargo: For more zombie films with heart, go for Return of the Living Dead Part 3 (1993), The Returned (2013), Train to Busan (2016) and The Girl with All the Gifts (2016). If you want more Australian horror films, try Charlie’s Farm (2014), Razorback (1984), Wolf Creek (2005), The Howling III: Marsupials (1987), Dark Age (1987), Rogue (2007), Black Water (2007), Boar (2018) and Wyrmwood (2014).

Wave to a stranger on the riverbank, he’ll rebuke your hospitality and show you his gun. Find a cheap bottle of wine, and it’s cause for celebration. As with any zombie apocalypse scenario, the world is no longer a place of kindness to one’s fellow man and trust has been rendered a rare commodity. Survival means foraging for everything and trusting no one.

Writer Yolanda Ramke and her co-director Ben Howling are first-time feature filmmakers treading familiar waters in the heavily trafficked zombie subgenre. Where they try to deviate is in the infection itself and how we grapple the loss of our loved ones. Unfortunately, despite their honorable efforts, I don’t feel we’ve wandered anywhere particularly special.

Following a 48-hour incubation period, those infected are reduced to twitchy, convulsing zombies staggering about in search of prey. The special effects are okay—adequate at least. What they lack in technical gory splendor they might partially make up for with ooey-gooey grossness. Amid this epidemic, Andy is an infected father (Martin Freeman; The World’s End, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) searching for someone willing to take care of his daughter. Naturally, he encounters some he can trust more than others, and trusts some that he shouldn’t.

I appreciated the approach to the infection, its stages, and the escalating urgency to see Andy’s daughter protected. This film tries, and its efforts don’t go unnoticed. But this doesn’t come within a staggering zombie’s reach of the desperate family ties in Train to Busan (2016), the palpable fear of trust of The Girl with All the Gifts (2016), or the devastating loss in The Returned (2013). And, might I add, those three films also featured superior special effects, acting and writing. I can’t help but to suspect that filmgoers who haven’t seen these other three movies will like Cargo more than those who have—as these three are top tier films in a horror-blessed era whereas Cargo is just sort of “there.”

All said, the only reason to really recommend this film is for the sake of seeing Martin Freeman star in a horror movie. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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