Monday, July 7, 2014
CHRYSALIS (2014) movie review
Chrysalis (2014) d. John Klein (USA)
In 2038, young couple Joshua (Cole Simon) and Penelope (Sara Gorsky) make their way across the blasted landscape of a dying world, scavenging and surviving whilst avoiding the infected mutants that now sit atop the food chain. As winter falls hard, the pair encounters another human survivor, Abira (Tanya Thai McBride), who explains that she is en route to rendezvous with another, larger group. As two becomes three, jealousies and conflicts arise, while their cannibalistic foes grow ever hungrier . . . and nearer.
The low-budget zombie road movie has become a subgenre all its own; the apocalyptic shinola hits the fan, and the resourceful living hit the dusty/bloody trail, fleeing from the undead threat and running toward . . . well, that’s really the problem, isn’t it? With no safe haven, the road leads to nowhere. (RIP, David Hess.) Several worthy entries have announced themselves over the past year from this ever-growing subgenre of a subgenre : The Battery, Beyond the Grave, Bled White, and Dead Weight. Now Chicagoland director John Klein’s Chrysalis joins that esteemed group, proving yet again that you don’t need World War Z money to turn out an engaging, thought-provoking thriller.
Screenwriter Ben Kurstin also serves as the film’s cinematographer, and his double-barreled contributions elevate the proceedings immeasurably. The gray-tinted doom-and-gloom atmosphere settles over the viewer like a toxic cloud, accented perfectly by Darren Callahan’s nerve-jangling electronic score and Max Traiman’s immersive production design. “Bleak” doesn’t begin to describe the tone as we witness Joshua and Penelope kicking through trash heaps or shivering against the cold wind, and the tiny ensemble brings an enormous amount of humanity to the fray. Simon’s scruffy hero displays sentiment and cynicism in equal doses, while Gorsky's tour-de-force portrayal of a childlike victim growing into a strong, self-sustaining woman is the type that wins awards. For her part, McBride does an excellent job dancing the line of her character’s ambiguity: is she asset or detriment, savior or grave-maker?
There are a few niggling contrivances here and there (such as Penelope’s illiteracy) that feel more akin to conscious attempts at creating “interesting, unique characters” than organic storytelling. But, on the whole, Klein keeps the action moving and the interplay crackling such that we’re drawn into this broken existence, playing games of “what would I do” while genuinely rooting for our onscreen stand-ins. Gorehounds might be disappointed at the selectively parceled moments of bloodletting, but the intelligence and emotional depth on display balances the scales nicely.
Like its namesake, Chrysalis captures the human race during a transitional stage, and within its cold and brittle shell lies a fragile, living wonder waiting to be discovered.
Chrysalis is available now for VOD through the film’s official site, TheRestAreDead.com
--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine