Doomsday (2008)

Written by Mike Lyon on March 14th, 2008

In John Carpenter’s classic Escape From New York, a military-type badass with an eyepatch infiltrates a quarantined area on a political mission for a government he doesn’t (and shouldn’t!) trust. In Neil Marshall’s new picture Doomsday, a military-type badass with an eyepatch infiltrates a quarantined area on a political mission for a government she doesn’t (and shouldn’t!) trust. Throw in a healthy dash of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, a little 28 Days Later, and a weird curveball’s worth of Gladiator, and Marshall has created a monster – an amalgamation of other people’s genre triumphs (well, roll with me on Thunderdome) that somehow manages to be lumbering, dumb, and ready to throw a little girl into a lake.

The kicker of it is, Marshall is (was? will be again?) a fantastic director – I feel comfortable calling his first feature, Dog Soldiers, one of the best werewolf films of all time, and his 2005 picture The Descent is without question the best British (if not flat out best) horror film of the new millennium. But Doomsday is so unforgivably bad that, try though I might have to enjoy it, I couldn’t help but be crushed under the weight of its ample absurdity – and this is coming from me, whose academic focus is firmly rooted in exploitative trash.

It’s clear that Marshall is shooting for a Carpenter-style pulp-actioner, but he makes the fatal mistake of playing it utterly straight. Whereas Carpenter’s Escape movies, or for that matter They Live or Big Trouble in Little China, deliver serial-style thrills with a generous side-order of nudges and winks, Doomsday shambles on humorlessly, destroying what could have been enjoyable scenes with grim determination. And for a movie this insane, a movie that asks so much from its audience, levity should be essential.

Doomsday doesn’t just jump the shark. It jumps the shark, then finds the shark’s mom and fucks her up the ass for half an hour. In a film full of silly mini-premises that run from clever to barely-tolerable, you will eventually experience what will henceforth be known as The Twist, capital letters, a “surprise” so fucking unbearably stupid that it defies all defense. It is not an overstatement to suggest that I was desperate for this movie to end.

Right before we hit The Twist, Adrian Lester (whom I resolve to still like despite his role in this catastrophe) prophetically throws his hands up and says, “Fuck it!” I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the film’s motto, if it was embroidered on the wrap jackets of the cast and crew. If you want to see what Marshall can do, pick up The Descent and prepare to be blown away; should you find yourself eyeing Doomsday, even out of sheer curiosity, I urge you to follow Lester’s example, and fuck it.


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