Most zombie films deal with a small ragtag group of survivors trying to stay alive during a zombie apocalypse, from George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead to Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland, but with Dominque Rocher’s The Night Eats the World, we have a story that deals with the idea of one man being alone in the land of the dead and what effects that would have on the mind.
In Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, we had a lone protagonist in a world of the undead; though, in Matheson’s case, it was vampires and not zombies. But what if our “hero” wasn’t venturing out in the hopes of finding a cure or other survivors? What if he had just decided to stay inside and play with his drum kit instead? This is the basic premise of The Night Eats the World where we have our protagonist Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie), a musician living in Paris, who drops by his ex-girlfriend’s apartment to recover some tapes and ends up passing out in one of the apartment’s backrooms and thus, sleeps through the outbreak of the zombie apocalypse.
Upon discovering the apartment trashed and bloodied, it soon becomes apparent that some kind of zombie outbreak has occurred — he finds his ex-girlfriend zombified and hanging outside the apartment — but once securing himself back inside the apartment, he doesn’t just retreat from the threat of the dead, but from everything else as well.
These zombies are of the fast-moving variety vis-à-vis 28 Days Later and World War Z, so his reticent to leave the safety of the apartment is understandable. He even witnesses a family trying to escape by car getting torn apart by the zombie horde, but he never really tries to make contact with possible survivors. Sam spends much of his time exploring the apartment building, one that is surprisingly occupied by very few zombies. There is a family of three zombies he locks in their apartment and a zombified elderly man in the building’s lift, and they offer no real threat, but once he’s collected food and a shotgun, he basically just settles in to wait. But what exactly is he waiting for?
The Night Eats the World is not an adrenaline-fueled zombie movie with characters battling through hordes of the undead; instead, we have Sam sitting around his flat figuring out how to make improvised musical instruments out of toys and wine glasses. It’s clear that director Dominique Rocher was more interested in making an introspective zombie film than that of an action movie, one that would tackle the mental fallout of being alone in the world of the dead. As time passes, we see Sam become increasingly lonely and unhinged, so desperate for company that he engages in rather one-sided conversations with the zombie trapped in the lift, and he even risks life and limb to capture a stray cat he sees wandering outside the apartment building. Things get so bad that at one point, after looking outside and seeing that all the zombies had wandered away, he goes into a violent drum solo to lure the zombies back.
The zombies of Rocher’s film are unique with their silent snarling and the fact that they only become animated when prey is spotted, but their tendency to wander off as if bored is easily their strangest quality. That an apartment building the size of the one we see here results only in a few of zombies hanging around is a bit of a stretch, all the rest apparently having just buggered off, and this is probably the most unbelievable aspect of this movie, but this must be the case because Sam is clearly not the kind of guy who would be capable of “cleaning” an infested building of hordes of zombies. Sam is more of the sort to close a door and pretend they’re not there. This facet of his character will make him a protagonist that many viewers will have a hard time getting behind, but actor Anders Danielsen Lie manages to bring enough heart and pathos to Sam that we truly do want to see him somehow survive his situation. He may not be your typical zombie-bashing hero, but he’s probably one of the more realistic.
Without an ensemble cast, director Dominique Rocher is still able to create an engaging and innovative zombie film, one that challenges the viewer’s assumptions of “What would you do to survive?” and along with the superb directing and excellent performances, the film’s visuals and musical score all work to capture Sam’s descent into a state of unhinged apathy. The Night Eats the World may not be every zombie fan’s cup of tea, but I found it’s quiet and unrelenting horror to be just what the doctor ordered.
The Night Eats the World (2018)
Movie Rank - 6.5/10
With The Night Eats the World Dominque Rocher gives us a rather bleak and understated view of a zombie apocalypse and actor Anders Danielsen Lie provides a stellar performance of a man slowly becoming unhinged by the events.