The ReZort (2015)

“Here at the ReZort, we firmly believe that every apocalypse deserves an afterparty,” says corporate manager Wilton (Claire Goose), promising her island guests, “Sand, sun, sea and slaughter.” After the trauma of a global zombie outbreak, and the loss of so many loved ones, slaughter seems the best medicine – at least to those who can afford it.

Having helmed Outpost (2008) and Outpost: Black Sun (2012), Steve Barker handed over the reins of the second sequel, Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz (2013) to Kieran Parker. Yet if it appeared that Barker had tired of zombies (and war), his latest film The ReZort sees him returning to genre’s shuffling, fighting masses – and once more finding ways to revivify contemporary concerns via the walking dead.

Where his Outpost films compared and contrasted the modern modes and mindsets of war with the atrocities of the past, and depicted a world in which, even in the Noughties, the threat of Nazism had never been fully buried, The ReZort imagines a post-war, PTSD-afflicted future where the walking dead stand in for the shame, guilt and raw, vengeful ire of those who have survived unthinkable outrage.

The ReZort opens with the intradiegetic shakicam of a TV reporter and her crew driving hurriedly after a big scoop. It is a trusted-and-tired format, as though Baker is teasing us with our own weariness over found footage (not to mention zombies) – when suddenly we are launched into a rapidly cut barrage of multi-media news reportage that refreshes the film’s narrative techniques (soon to settle into conventionally objective camerawork), while also filling us in on the backstory. This, we learn, is a post-World War Z scenario, in a world where humans have finally defeated the billions afflicted with the zombifying Chromosyndrome-A virus using the only known ‘cure’: blanket bombing with high collateral damage.

This policy, known as the ‘Brimstone Protocol’, is being reenacted for the first time in seven years, as the world’s last-remaining zombies, reserved as game for luxury ‘Zafaris’ on a private island resort, get out of control. Flash back several days, and we watch unfolding the events that led to this disaster, as a motley group of ReZort guests – including the closure-seeking Melanie (Jessica de Gouw), her war-veteran boyfriend Lewis (Martin McCann), the natural-born-hunter Archer (Dougray Scott), the evasive Sadie (Elen Rhys) and a pair of FPS-addicted teens (Jassa Ahluwalia, Lawrence Walker) – find themselves rapidly turning from hunters to hunted, and having to outrun both a ravenous zombie host and approaching, missile-laden drones.

The high-concept pitch for The ReZort practically writes itself: this is Jurassic Park, only with zombies. Yet Barker and writer Paul Gerstenberger (Bad Meat) are also well schooled in George A. Romero’s abiding principle that the undead should serve as dead-eyed mirroring metaphor for the ills of the living. Accordingly, they ship into their visceral premise all manner of social commentary, ranging from the dodgy ethics of commercial hunting to the dehumanising treatment of war refugees. The result is an unnatural genetic hybrid of moribund clichés and live issues, with the once-human ‘hordes’ confrontationally playing our fears off against our sympathies. If our mixed feelings about the war fugitives who have recently been washing up en masse on Europe’s coastline have not quite been documented by Barker’s film, they have certainly been allegoriZed.

© Anton Bitel