Firstly I’d just like to say thank you to Danish Writer/Director, Jonas Ussing for allowing me early access to an online screener of his debut short film, “Zombiehagen”. Zombiehagen is a 24 minute long, Horror/Action film that centers on two young adults who’ve survived the zombie apocalypse. Helten (played by Casper Sloth) and Heltinden (Simone Lykke) (not sure why their names are so similar, random coincidence) cross paths at an abandoned football stadium that’s being used to contain the remaining undead (well most of them). From there, the two join forces and take refuge at Helten’s family home. The film also stars Elias Munk, Jeanne Eva Jepsen and Finn Nyborg Nielsen. During my weekly movie browsing online, I stumbled upon a write-up/review for Zombiehagen at DreadCentral.com. They’re usually a reliable source for all things horror related and had good things to say about this one and fortunately Jonas was kind enough to share his film with Adamthemoviegod.
Over the years I’ve seen a lot of zombie related content, whether that be in TV, Film or Gaming. It’s a sub-genre of Horror that I’ve always been quite critical of and if I’m honest, other than Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of George Romero’s, “Dawn Of The Dead”, I can’t recall many other zombie films (non comedy-wise) that I’ve actually liked (yes I’m looking at you World War Z, you sucked). Lately the ideas and creativity behind these sorts of films have dried up but then something comes along like Zombiehagen and flicks that switch back on and suddenly there’s light again, albeit in a pressure filled 24 minutes and not your typical feature-length running time. Sure, Zombiehagen treads over familiar landscapes (no I don’t mean Copenhagen if you’ve been haha), it follows that similar narrative in countless other post apocalyptic films and I don’t think the intent was necessarily to spring viewers with anything fresh. With that being said, Ussing’s script is a compelling one even with the very minimal dialogue prior to its final act. The cinematography is quite impressive, there’s a series of wide establishing shots of a deserted Copenhagen to start proceedings. We’re immediately introduced to a cross-bow wielding hunter, eventually revealed to be Heltinden. The fantastic tracking shots that mimic her movements as she makes her way across the city, are extremely cinematic and not what you’d expect from an independent film estimated to cost just over $20,000 (AUD).
The attention to detail in the set dressings and more importantly the visual effects, give this a high quality production value. The CG mapping is consistently good, showcasing backgrounds that blend in well with the environment that’s being depicted. I couldn’t get my head around the logistics of the stadium scene until I actually realized how it was carried out, so kudos to the vfx team. Sets are dressed well with abandoned cars, scattered debris and decaying bodies as well. The score is another great feature in Zombiehagen. There’s a suspenseful theme in the beginning that utilizes Bass and Horn and a more Dramatic section later that’s led with Violin and Cello, some of it felt like music from any Brian De Palma film (Body Double and Carrie), I dug it. The zombie makeup looks good and it’s evenly applied to all the extras and although there aren’t many practical effects, the highlight is a kill involving an arrow. Now being Americanized, I couldn’t help but notice lead actor, Casper Sloth bares a striking resemblance to Hollywood’s pretty boy, Zac Efron (although Sloth is much better at his craft) and Simone Lykke is a dead ringer for Actress, Jessica Biel. Casper and Simone have good chemistry and you can sympathize with both of their characters plights (perhaps one more so than the other). The performances are both very good and I was particularly impressed and surprised by the final scene in the film.
The only technical detail that wasn’t to my liking was some of the darker, post production color saturation in the scenes at the stadium. As far as plot holes go, I found it a little farfetched that Helten was able to identify the specifics of something that was missing from the notice boards. Unless you have an eidetic memory I can’t see how you’d remember one very small section of information on all those boards (which can be seen in the above image). In fairness to the writing, there’s no time frame placed on the events so who knows how long he’s been looking at those boards for. The only instance where there’s some questionable decision-making is when Heltindin decides to call out in the stadium full of zombies… not smart love, not smart at all (haha). I know she’s trying to reach a conclusion in regards to her situation but that’s probably not the right way to go about it. I think that scene could have played out with her accidentally drawing attention to herself rather than just yelling out.
Zombiehagen is a wonderful and effective Horror short from a new Danish film maker in Jonas Ussing. I knew from the opening cinematic establishing shots and the larger than life orchestral score, that this was going to be high quality stuff. The cinematography is sharp, the set design thorough and the visual effects seamlessly blended into the final cut. The music is key and the makeup effects top it all off. The film needs those good performances and that punchy impactful ending to help stand out from its competition and it does. If not for a couple of small details in the writing this would be the definition of perfect. As it stands, Zombiehagen is without a doubt the best short that I’ve seen in the genre and if you’re smart you’d take this over just about any feature-length Zombie flick. Congratulations Jonas!
My rating for “Zombiehagen” is 8.5/10