Directed by David Morlet. Starring Hélène de Fougerolles, Francis Renaud, Dida Diafat, and Marie-Sohna Conde. Rated R.
As the zombie... sorry, "mutant" apocalypse wipes out most of France, Marco and his pregnant wife Sonia seek shelter in an abandoned hospital until they can get help. Marco was recently attacked by one of the infected and is undergoing a painful transition into one of the titular mutants, so Sonia calls for help using one of the ambulance radios and tries to keep him in decent health long enough until the military scoops them up and he can get some proper medical attention. With the clock ticking, it's only a matter of time before Sonia's soon-to-be-cannibalistic husband tears her limb from limb, and just when things couldn't get any worse for our leading lady, a group of ruthless criminals invade the hospital.
MUTANTS is essentially a zombie virus film despite the somewhat misleading title. I'm sure a lot of people in the film-loving community need another zombie movie like they need a hole in the head, but every once in a while, one comes along that kinda does it right. While MUTANTS doesn't exactly reek of originality, it does something refreshing by putting a majority of the focus on the characters rather than the "mutants", and it plays out like a psychological horror film as a result. The film revolves around the doomed situation of the two central characters and the jeopardy of their relationship (and their unborn child) while the zombies are merely a catalyst for the tragic events. Zombies do make appearances in the film, especially in the final act, but it would have been just as effective a horror movie without them.
MUTANTS slowly builds to its conclusion, and at times it's downright boring. The dark, wintry setting even makes it all the more depressing as the film unashamedly tries to pull on your heartstrings with tender moments like this...
...but the film succeeds by establishing the characters and the story first and foremost, letting the viewer get a better understanding of the peril the characters are in before opening the floodgates and unleashing the zombies. And, with a group of reckless criminals thrown in the mix, it allows for some satisfying death sequences and basically gives the zombies some people to chew on. Speaking of the zombies, they have an interesting rat/human hybrid aesthetic. Fans of the makeup effects in Christopher Smith's CREEP and Neil Marshall's THE DESCENT will more than likely get a kick out of the creatures in this particular film.
When it's all said and done, MUTANTS isn't an outstanding horror movie or one that breaks any new ground (nor does it try to), but it's put together very well and it's a breath of fresh air despite being a mostly by-the-numbers virus outbreak/zombie movie. The initially slow pacing ultimately works to the film's advantage and pays off in a big way, with the events building up to a chaotic and blood-soaked climax. Fans of French/Hospital/Snow-horror will no doubt find satisfaction with what this film brings to the table, but I'd cautiously recommend it to everyone else, especially those who have grown weary of zombie movies.
MVT: Surprisingly, for a movie that doesn't really stand out in a big way, I found it hard to narrow it down to a single "most valuable thing". Both leads turn in great performances, especially Hélène de Fougerolles as Sonia. However, in the end I'd have to give the MVT to the film's score. It's really just a combination of generic rock music and some of the more Ambient, noise-related compositions that seem to pop up in a lot of recent French horror films (specifically those scored by François Eudes of HIGH TENSION and INSIDE fame), but both styles of the overall musical score work wonders in setting a certain tone when appropriate. The rock music, for example, slowly builds and builds as everything in the film is on the verge of falling apart (or get ripped to pieces). The more Ambient pieces compliment some of the downbeat moments quite well.
Make or Break: Three words: Zombies. Lay. Siege.