For some unfathomable reason, the general reaction to writer-director Neil Marshall’s last movie, “The Descent,” was very positive, even though the story of a bunch of women attacked during their exploration of an uncharted cave by a bunch of hungry subterranean creatures was awfully basic and the execution hardly outstanding. But certainly the response to “Doomsday” should be every bit as damning as the awful picture deserves.
Basically it’s a retread of “Resident Evil” to which a strong dose of “Mad Max” has been added, though with a heroine played by Rhona Mitra instead of Mel Gibson in the lead. (Just call it “Max Maxine.”) The set-up has the whole of Scotland quarantined and cut off from the world in 2008 by the British government because of the outbreak of a horrible virus there. Twenty-seven years later, the virus reappears in London, and since surveillance led by stern cop Eden (Mitra) is sent “across the wall” to locate a scientist named Kane (Malcolm McDowell) who remained there and, it’s presumed, discovered how to treat the disease.
But the crew run into trouble from the wild, punkish followers of a thug named Sol (Craig Conway), who resemble the “Lost Boys” from that Duran Duran video of a couple decades ago, and though some of them manage to escape him, they get no warmer a reception from Kane, who—in a truly weird plot turn—has set himself up in a remote castle from which he presides over a population that’s reverted, for some reason, into a bunch of medieval horsemen and peasants. Kane intends to execute them, but they escape and in a prolonged chase—first on horseback and then by car (no hint about where all the petrol comes from)—they make their way back to what passes for civilization with a “cure” of sorts, Kane’s immune daughter Cally (MyAnna Buring).
There’s also some political chicanery involved in the business, with Prime Minister Hatcher (Alexander Siddig) being manipulated by the Machiavellian Michael Canaris (David O’Hara) while Eden’s gruff boss Bill Nelson (Bob Hoskins) looks on in alarm. That all figures in a twist finale that no one will much care about.
This is dreadful stuff, aggressively silly and repulsively nasty. The “Mad Max” homages (or imitations) are all over the place, from the makeshift theatre where Sol executes people by burning them alive (it looks suspiciously like Thunderdome) to the hand-to-hand combat Eden has to engage in with Kane’s giant champion and that final raucous car chase. But they’re all done with an utter lack of style or verve. There’s lots of action in “Doomsday,” but it’s all messy and chaotic—and often disgustingly ugly in its violence and bloodletting. And the acting is awful. Mitra poses and snarls throughout, and her several fight scenes seem to have been shot and edited to conceal her discomfort with them. (On the other hand, she looks fine in silhouette dangling from the ceiling as Sol’s captive.) But she seems positively sedate beside the grotesque Conway, who’s apparently trying to be some sort of Sex Pistols refugee (he and his equally revolting girlfriend “act” mostly by smacking their lips or sticking out their tongues lasciviously), and veterans McDowell and Hoskins, both of whom camp it up royally. They know swill when they smell it.
“Doomsday” looks as though it were made cheaply; if not, they spent a lot of money to make it look cheap. All the technical credits are mediocre, but still better than the material deserves.
This movie is so bad it almost makes “The Descent” seem good. But not quite.