Opstandelsen – a review

June 2, 2011

Opstandelsen (or Resurrection, if you’re not fluent in Danish) is an indie zombie short(ish, around 50 minutes) directed by Casper Haugegaard. It presents a lovely vignette: during a funeral, zombies happen. Four people, all family, survive by hiding under the church and then spend the rest of the film trying to make it out alive. The main dramatic tension is between two brothers, one of them the straight-up one and the other a drug addict.

The movie left me with mixed, but mostly positive feelings. It’s very compact and well-focused. Even so, the movie does suffer a bit from balancing issues. In a movie like this, featuring a very small cast with in-story blood ties, I would’ve liked to see more character interaction and dialogue. There was some, and what was there was good. I liked the actors (Mads Althoff and Jonas Bjørn Andersen) portraying the two brothers. They had nice chemistry between them and managed to convey the relationship of two different brothers well. This stuff leaves you wanting more, so I was a bit disappointed with the decision to replace a lot of that with running around dark corridors in a panic. Which brings me to my next point.

A large part of Opstandelsen is spent shaky-cam running in the dark. This is very Blair Witch Project-y, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand it does get a bit confusing at times, and there is a bit too much of it, which might put people off. On the other it does manage to make the movie feel very personal. The cramped, dark corridors are scary and there is a genuine sense of urgency, panic and even claustrophobia. I might be wrong, but I guess that this was partly a budget thing as well – a dark setting doesn’t require very much propping or makeup after all. Still, I think the movie excels in the parts not spent running around. When you have good actors, you’d do well to get as much mileage out of them as possible.

Another little disappointment for me was the minimal attention given to the actual zombie attack on the funeral crowd. The few flashes seen are excellent, and the church itself is a wonderful setting. Again, this adds to the personal feeling of the movie as the viewer pretty much sees what the characters see. Still, every now and then this viewer would’ve liked to see some more.

The zombies themselves are nicely put together, and there is some good makeup present. There is a bit of variation in the quality though – some of the gore sequences are absolutely breathtakingly disgusting and visceral, while at times some of the characters just look like some fake theatre blood has been thrown on them. The gore does deserve a special mention. The combination of makeup and sickening sound effects makes for truly awful (in a good sense) death and devouring scenes. Make no mistake about it, Opstandelsen is brutal.

The cinematography left me a little perplexed. Other parts of the movie look like they’ve been shot in video while others look like film. Video tends to contribute to a cheap, soap opera look, but works surprisingly well in Opstandelsen. Still I was left wondering, why the difference in styles? There doesn’t seem to be any major discernible reason, and the contrast eats a bit of the movie’s coherence.

There’s a lot of critique above, so it might be surprising that I actually liked Opstandelsen a quite a lot. The main reason might just be that the whole setting and look of the thing is very Scandinavian. The familiar look contributes to a feeling of personal attachment, which is very good in any horror movie. Despite the low-budget look I found myself intensely drawn to the film for its duration – which by the way is pretty much spot on. A few minutes of corridor running could’ve been cut, but I still liked the film’s pacing.

Overall verdict: An intense zombie short film, which suffers from some of the usual low-budget problems but manages to make itself work nevertheless. Opstandelsen is far from perfect, but still an excellent way to spend fifty minutes of your life. Something is definitely rotten in the state of Denmark. Luckily, it’s not this movie.

You can get the film on dvd from CDON.com, for example.

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