[Warning: Here there be spoilers]
THE REZORT was one of those movies I didn’t expect much from, and I ended up getting a lot more than I thought I needed. I’m not sure whether the premise of the movie is original, but if not, I’m surprised it hadn’t been done before, because it made so much sense as a concept.
Basically, JURASSIC PARK meets zombies. And it’s surprisingly decent.
Great? Not so much. There are parts of the movie that seem far-fetched, although my threshold for disbelief is a lot lower than it used to be. Whenever I tell myself there’s no way anyone’s going to let a multibillionaire build a resort on an island where people can shoot zombies, I look at the world today, and I go, “Nope. There’d be protests and marches and debates, then they’d totally let her do that.” We have game preserves and hunting trails all over the world, dead people wouldn’t legally be considered people, and it would boost a post-apocalyptic economy. You think some of the lines in the movie regarding why the ReZort was allowed to happen are kind of ridiculous until you really start to think about them. Then you realize all the rhetoric is of the kind used in a number of other controversial but totally legal practices. Zombies aren’t real, folks, but if they were, it wouldn’t be too long before something like this happened.
There are parts of the movie that play a bit rote, with a cookie-cutter selection of side characters introduced to us: the immature gamers, the long-suffering soldier who misses the war, the pacifist-activist, the loving couple, the obnoxious businessmen, the evil billionaire. And these characters are put into a predictable string of zombie situations. I mean, it’s the ReZort. It’s a zombie theme park. You know it’s going to go wrong because you’ve seen JURASSIC PARK, and you know how it’s going to go wrong because you’ve seen at least one zombie movie in your life, and with few exceptions, they’re all really similar. But the actors bite into the meat of their roles, approaching the movie as though it’s more than it is, and so they make it that way.
Our main character Melanie is played by actress Jessica de Gouw, who’s on my celebrity doppelganger list as the spitting image of Rachel McAdams. I’d call her a poor man’s Rachel McAdams, and when I first saw her in the movie, that’s what I thought I’d be getting, but her acting chops hold their own. Come on, Hollywood, there’s a long-lost twin story in there somewhere.
We come into the movie post-zombie-war, when the world has fought its way back to something approaching normal due to a policy known as Operation Brimstone. In short, they firebombed the hell out of anywhere the zombies arose, which took a lot of innocent lives along with them and left thousands upon thousands of people without homes, causing a serious refugee crisis. The movie opens with a series of maddeningly realistic news clips from partisan channels bringing us up to speed on 1) what happened and 2) where the post-zombie-war controversies are. There are a lot of traumatized people. War equals trauma, and zombies equal personal trauma. There are soldiers adjusting to civilian life, because of the aforementioned war equals trauma. There’s the refugee crisis that’s moving at a crawl.
There are also people who challenge Operation Brimstone as causing too much collateral damage and those who challenge the concept of the ReZort as being callous with the dead. As activist Sadie points out, “If this is how we treat the dead, who’s to say the living won’t be next?” It has roots in pro-life and animal rights activism, but it doesn’t firmly hang its hat with either. It’s not a stretch to imagine how dead rights activists might address the zombie issue. After all, these are people’s families and friends that they watched change, sometimes right before their eyes, and it’s a moral and ethical dilemma what to do with them (and depending on spiritual views of life after death and how to treat dead bodies, it could be a religious dilemma,too). Like I said, personal trauma.
Melanie, who’s part of a post-zombie-war grief support group, and her ex-soldier boyfriend agree to go to the ReZort, a luxury hotel and game trail for people who want revenge on the zombie virus that upended their lives and killed their family and friends. Apparently, the controlled circumstances did wonders for someone else in her group, and she thinks it might serve her PTSD to indulge in some R&R and carnage—confronting her fears, but with cocktails.
Among the other resort guests, we also have a scowly, steely-eyed Dougray Scott, who most mainstreamers know from EVER AFTER, but who’s made something of a name for himself in the horror genre as well (hello, HEMLOCK GROVE, you pretty little mess). If anyone else is a significant actor, I don’t recognize them.
Their time at the ReZort begins with evening drinks by the pool, where the billionaire creator of the ReZort comes out and addresses her crowd. She’s definitely not what you expect, not least because the person who created an island retreat for zombie hunting is a woman. She’s trim, fastidiously neat and polished, like the owner of a tropical paradise hotel rather than one with a gruesome underbelly. She contrasts strongly with the zombie woman they bring out, shackled, dirty, and decayed. They stare each other down face to face (I’m pretty sure there’s enough slack on the shackles for the zombie woman to reach her if she lunges, but whatever), and it all feels exploitative as hell, especially since the zombie still has some soul in her eyes, although she acts like an animal. Everyone else is raucously cheering—”Every apocalypse deserves to have an afterparty!”—but Melanie’s clearly uncomfortable with how human the zombie still appears to be.
There’s only one other person there who seems just as ambivalent, the pink-streaked jilted fiancee supposedly there because the tickets were nonrefundable. But during the party, Sadie sneaks away to where she doesn’t belong and downloads some files in a personnel-only part of the resort. Because if everything went as planned, it wouldn’t be much of a movie.
The point at which everything goes wrong is where the movie is at its most predictable, and where it tends to falter. I would have liked to see more ReZort amenities beyond one day shooting at herds or at zombies set up in an abandoned compound like the guests are playing a real-life video game. What other sick ways do they use the dead? But there’s a twist toward the climax that I really like, because it’s just so awful and fits right into the post-Z world they’ve created, addressing an issue that you probably figured out already. I’m terrible at predicting twist endings (I’m getting better, which of course makes movies worse, so it’s a double-edged sword), and I didn’t see this one coming. Even if you do, it’s perfect enough to work.
Like I said, THE REZORT isn’t great. But when you turn it on just expecting the usual, getting the taste of a pretty darn juicy concept might just give you the popcorn evening in you’re looking for.