Tribeca Film Festival: The Night Eats the World (2018) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Zombie films are becoming a norm. Since George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the undead monster has become a cinematic favorite – but The Walking Dead has elevated the monster’s popularity – possibly to it’s breaking point. It is up to the writer and director of a zombie film to make each story as original as possible while still remaining true to the genre. The Night Eats the World (2018), based on the French novel by Pit Agarmen, is directed by Dominique Rocher, and manages to put a heavy focus on the lead character and his internal struggle as a result of a zombie outbreak.

The Night Eats the World was a dramatic take on the Zombie film.

Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie) goes to his ex-girlfriend’s house, hoping to pick up a box of his old cassette tapes she took by mistake. He shows up to discover that a massive party is in progress, and must uncomfortably navigate through it in order to reclaim his possessions. After a confrontation with his ex’s new boyfriend, Sam is sent to the back office to find his box, but passes out while treating a nosebleed. When he awakens, he is shocked to find the house in disarray, and blood everywhere. It quickly becomes apparent that something terrible has happened, and that he may be the last alive.

Lie is given an extremely challenging task in this film. The setup of the film puts him alone, and he will have to be charismatic enough to keep the audience engaged. Lie has to play this character in such a way that he is able to hook the audience so they’ll sympathize with Sam and relate to what he’s going through. It’s a big risk in a genre that has been leaning more into action or comedy as their way to stand out amongst the other zombie films. This film, instead, opts to craft a human story of survival and isolation that is far more cerebral than many of the other films in its place. In some ways, this story calls back to Romero’s first zombie feature, but there were multiple characters to stave off some of the loneliness, and it all took place in a day. The Night Eats the World spans a much longer period of time, and for parts of it, Sam is in total isolation.

It is definitely a risk to create a film that is in many ways a bottle episode (usually referring to a TV show episode where the regular characters find themselves trapped in one room and through dialogue flashback to prior moments from other episodes). Much of the film takes place in the apartment that Sam wakes up in. Fortunately, Rocher is able to craft a very cinematic experience in this space, and uses diegetic music in interesting ways. Sam is a musician of unique talent who seems to be able to craft his art from just about anything. This skill allows for some of the more enjoyable moments in the film, as Sam finds a reprieve from his nightmare through composing music. The scenes featuring this are excellently shot, and the music is extremely enjoyable.

Final thoughts…

The Night Eats the World is definitely not everybody’s type of zombie movie. However, I found the film to be thought-provoking and often nerve-racking. It’s definitely hard to discuss all the elements that I enjoyed without possibly souring the experience for someone else, but it’s definitely a film worth checking out. The Night Eats the World earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating, but it’s heavily leaning towards the Must See rating.

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