[Film Review] CARGO (2018)

By Joe Meyers

Directed by: Ben Howling, and Yolanda Ramke
Written by: Yolanda Ramke

Starring:
Martin Freeman
Anthony Hayes
Caren Pistorius
David Gulpilil
Susie Porter
Kris McQuade
Bruce R. Carter
Natasha Wanganeen
Simone Landers

Release Date: 5/18/2018, Netflix

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In 2013, Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke gave us their exceptional short film CARGO, written by Ramke, about a father trying to find a safe place for his infant daughter, while he was in the midst of turning into a zombie. It premiered at the Tropfest short film festival, becoming a finalist, before going viral on YouTube. On May 18th, 2018 Howling and Ramke’s feature length version of this story, starring Martin Freeman, premiered on Netflix. Expanding a short film idea into a feature can be tricky. We’ve seen it done fairly well in recent years by the likes of LIGHTS OUT, and THE BABADOOK. I’m happy to say CARGO joins those movies as one that works, as Howling and Ramke manage to give us a film that’s equally good as a zombie movie, infection outbreak movie, a post-apocalyptic movie, and a drama.

The film begins as Andy (Martin Freeman), Kay (Susie Porter), and their infant daughter Rosie are surviving the zombie outbreak by living on a houseboat and traveling down a river in Australia hoping to find a safe and secure area. Without going into a full on exposition about the reason for the rise of the zombies, we discover the outbreak has been going on for some time, once infected via a bite you only have 48 hours before you die and turn, and world’s scientists weren’t able to come up with a cure. They did, however, manufacture medical kits for the pandemic that included a digital watch to count down your remaining 48 hours, and a cylinder that has a pneumatic spike for piercing the skull and killing the brain, among other items. Unfortunate events lead to Kay turning into a zombie, and Andy being bitten by her. He spends his next 48 hours trying to find a new, safe home for Rosie before he succumbs to the virus. In another plot running parallel to Andy and Rosie’s adventures, an Aboriginal girl named Thoomi, played wonderfully by newcomer Simone Landers, is trying to protect her zombiefied father. She believes that his spirit/soul can be returned to his body and he would be cured. Her father escapes the area she kept him in and this is the catalyst for Andy and Thoomi to meet, pushing events to their climax as Andy’s 48 hours run out.

I thought the film’s version of zombies was very well done. The way they move is creepy, it seems like they tried to make it grounded in a real world kind of way, and the way the virus works as it turns someone is unsettling. One scene in particular that occurs while Andy is nearing the end of his 48 hours stuck with me since my viewing of CARGO last week. However, I will warn you the zombies are used sparingly throughout the movie. Being set in the Australian outback, Andy and Thoomi aren’t dealing with a densely populated area teeming with the undead.

At its heart, CARGO is about family trying to protect its own in the midst of trying to cope in a world undergoing a total, societal breakdown. A great premise, spot on acting, a good script, and a wonderful job by two first time, feature film directors makes CARGO worth the time investment for a viewing. It’s a slow burn, zombie drama that feels like the offspring of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD, and THE DEAD, a 2010 zombie film directed by the Ford Brothers. CARGO is a great addition to the genre, like recent zombie films THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS, and TRAIN TO BUSAIN.

Episode 138 – Deadly Decades: The Thrilling Thirties

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We give our individual top ten horror film flicks from the 1930’s in this installment of “Deadly Decades”. Enjoy!

Episode 138 – Deadly Decades: The Thrilling Thirties

Edit: As promised, here’s the Letterboxd list of all of our picks.
Episode 138 – Deadly Decades: The Thrilling Thirties (The Letterboxd List)

What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now? – Evils Of The Night (1985)

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(Be warned, dear readers. Ahead there be plenty of spoilers.)

The short and sweet premise for this slice of aged cheddar written and directed by Mohammed “Mardi” Rustam out of the glorious 1980’s is a group of aliens are kidnapping teens and co-eds between the ages of 16 and 24 to harvest their platelets to use in a scheme for maintaining their immortality. So I guess Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce wasn’t the only “space vampire” movie to come out in ’85, eh?

Admittedly, the poster for this one caught my attention while perusing the listings on Amazon Prime in preparation for our latest Streaming Screams episode. The one shared above is actually toned down when compared to the others that have her nipples standing out like thimbles. Then I read the cast list, and it sounded like the casting director was playing one of the weirdest games of Mad Libs ever. Check this list out:

  • John Carridine (aged film legend of many a horror and sci-fi film)
  • Julie Newmar (Cat Woman herself!)
  • Tina Louise (Ginger from Gilligan’s Island)
  • Neville Brand (Sadly, his last film role. I always loved him in Tora!Tora!Tora!. He was also in Mohammed “Mardi” Rustam’s Eaten Alive! in 1976.)
  • Aldo Ray (A talented character actor I remember best as Sgt. Muldoon in John Wayne’s The Green Berets.)
  • Tony O’Dell (One of the Cobra Kai members in The Karate Kid)

But even after this incredibly odd list, one name truly caught my attention: Amber Lynn.

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You see, Miss Lynn is an adult film star who played a prominent role in my adolescent development. To put it another way: She was the star of one of the first porn films I ever saw. And Evils Of The Night was made during the prime of her very active career. Along with Miss Lynn, there are a few other adult film actors and actresses who appear. Trust me: Watch the movie, and you can spot them. Or just cheat and use IMDb. The rest of the cast is a bunch of actors who only did one or two things, if any, after this. But back to discussing the film . . .

Within the first 10 minutes, you know exactly what you will be getting with this one. You have a space ship landing and two couples making out in the woods somewhere, oblivious to anything but gettin’ it on and smoking the devil’s weed. The more amorous of the two couples (who also happen be played by two of the aforementioned adult film stars) quickly strip down and get down. While the guy is standing with his back to a tree and has his girl bent over and facing the other way, a rope is wrapped around his neck. It’s kind like auto-erotic asphyxiation, but there is no auto or erotic to it.

At first you may believe that both couples have been killed off, but wait! They have only been incapacitated by Kurt (Brand) and Fred (Ray), the guys from the local gas station that have been recruited by the aliens to kidnap specimens for them.

Cut to Dr. Kozmar (Carridine), Dr. Zarma (Newmar), and Cora (Louise), the alien scientists, standing around one of the young bodies being drained of platelets as Dr. Kozmar gives a wonderful bit of brief exposition that felt like it was lifted straight from a classic sci-fi film of the 50’s. Nearly reminded me of some of the bits from Plan 9 From Outer Space but done better.

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Billy (O’Dell) makes for an escape but gets blasted by one of the high-heeled guards using a ray-gun ring. One the same guards that we just saw groping at each other for no discernible reason in the hall after taking one of the gurneys from Kurt and Fred. The outfits on the guards really are impressive.

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Wishing I found a better picture for the full effect. This is when the thigh groping is going on.

Without further ado, we jump to the next day and a beach party full of co-eds, various levels of clothing, and generic 80’s synth pop/rock music. The hair, the make-up, the music, the clothes, all of it cements what decade this film is in. Another product of that era that somehow slipped my mind is a term I haven’t used in years: Preppies. Every guy in this falls firmly into that little category.

As the night falls, some think of camping out while most of them head off for making out. The song made for the following scene felt like a total rip-off of any popular duet love song of the era, but the use of it felt even stranger as they cut back and forth between Ron and Nancy, the engaged and tender couple, and Eddie and Joyce (Lynn), rutting like dogs in heat in an abandoned house. Seriously about the dog part. Eddie gives Joyce one of the most gratuitous tongue baths you’ll ever see.

Some of them are kidnapped by good old Kurt and Fred, and this leads to one of the more laughable moments for me. After Ron wakes up half-dressed in the back of Kurt and Fred’s truck, he stands up, looks at them coming at him, and calmly asks “Hey. What’s going on?” right before they try to grab him and he finally gets a clue to run!

During that same night, the remaining trio of Heather, Connie, and Brian, are all kidnapped in one way or another as well. Connie did try to escape during her abduction. An escape attempt that included some of the most polite terrorized door knocking I’ve ever seen. Sadly for her she was knocking on Cora’s door.

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Connie, Brian, and Heather are in a bit of a pickle.

Nancy works on her own escape from the hospital the aliens are using as a base, and the trio are tied up in the basement of Kurt and Fred’s gas station. As Heather gets free of her bonds, Kurt comes down with plans to molest Connie before handing them over to the aliens. During her struggle to get out of the basement, Heather and Kurt end up doing a tag team reenactment of Driller Killer with Heather on the losing end. Connie then manages to get free and clocks Kurt with a wrench. You know, the wrench you see her grab when she sits on the floor and then has to reach behind and pick up again even though she hadn’t dropped it?

Connie gets up stairs and takes out Kurt with a car from the lift, crushing him, but Fred returns and beats her and ties her up for killing his best friend. Nancy arrives just in time to save Connie from a coup de grace by blasting an air hose in Fred’s right ear. A blast so strong that blood sprays out his left ear. …. Yeah.

Anywho, while Fred runs after an escaping Heather for several more minutes, the aliens decide to cut their losses and leave, and Brian finally gets his shit together and gets out his bonds and the basement. As Brian battles with Fred to save himself and Nancy, the departing alien ship blasts Fred with a laser to tie up a loose end. Credits.

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Aldo Ray (Fred) gets killed by a ray.

I noticed I was getting a bit long-winded in my review here, so I did leave out some of the other gem moments in this. If you are a fan of cheesy, drive-in films, this one should be right up your alley. It felt like it was a beta version of something you’d find on Cinemax now, and I would love to see this done in a kind of “MST3K After Dark” style. That really needs to be a thing.

Until next time, Fright Fans, keep it weird and keep watching!