It isn’t every day that you get to see a zombie movie that leaves a genuinely emotional and lasting impression – by its very nature, the genre’s schlock/horror does not generally strive for profundity. But this is different. Set mostly in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia and shot by the brilliant cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson (Shine, The Navigator), the story begins with a family of three floating down the Murray on a flat-bottom boat. They are among the few who have survived a contagion that has led to the rest of the population turning into flesh eating, shambling zombies. Hoping to find a safe haven for themselves and their baby girl, Rosie, Andy and Kay (Martin Freeman, Susie Porter) come upon an abandoned yacht on the riverbank. After Andy has rifled through what provisions remain on board, Kay decides to investigate for herself. ‘Why oh why would she do that?’ you ask anxiously. In any post-apocalyptic scenario, characters must needlessly put themselves in danger (‘don’t go into the cellar!’), so you just ride with it and prepare yourself for tragedy or a hair-raising escape. When tragedy strikes here, it is left to one of them to see that the child – the ‘cargo’ – is delivered to salvation. Other ‘normals’ are encountered, but tension is built through the constant moving on and seeking a home for Rosie. A fine support cast, including veterans Kris McQuade and David Gulpilil, keep you guessing all the way, but the most significant person is a young Indigenous girl, Thoomi (Simone Landers), whose father is in the throes of becoming a zombie. It is an eye-catching, entirely natural performance from Landers, who ultimately steals the show. Most of the drama is meant to occur in the forty-eight hours between a victim being bitten and turning into a zombie, but it feels like more time elapses than that – which is only a quibbling criticism. Original and spiritual, the ending is a little preachy, but the message is loud and clear and overdue in being accepted.
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