I’ve never quite understood the fuss over Neil Marshall. I fell asleep in Dog Soldiers (2002) and only found The Descent (2005) intermittently successful. And maybe that’s why I liked Doomsday a good bit—I wasn’t expecting much. Then again, it’s possible that I just can’t help but admire a silly postapocalyptic thriller with the chutzpah to throw in a re-creation of the final shot from Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957) part way through. Mostly, however, I think it has to do with the fact that this is perhaps the smartest dumb movie ever made. I was surprised when I got home from seeing Doomsday to find that the general run of reviews for the film not only disagreed with that view, but seemed to me to miss the point altogether. That’s to say that an awful lot of people were taking the film seriously—and I really don’t think that was ever Marshall’s idea.
What Marshall has cobbled together is an insane patchwork of action/sci-fi/horror/apocalyptic claptrap taken to the most absurdly over-the-top level possible—at least within the dictates of an R rating and marginal coherence. When people complain that Doomsday is unbelievable and that it moves from one “what the hell?” moment to another, they’re overlooking the fact that that’s pretty much the idea. The film’s more of an outlandish goof on the various genres it contains than a serious endeavor.
Conceptually, Doomsday takes its first cue from Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later … (2002) by presenting a country—in this case Scotland—being killed off by the “Reaper Virus,” only this virus doesn’t produce rage-infected zombies, merely masses of dead folks. To combat this, the British government builds a wall (!) to isolate Scotland from the rest of the island in order to contain the plague. One of the last to get out is a young girl, Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra, Shooter), (never mind that she loses an eye in the process, that’s just color), who years later grows up to be one of the best agents of the Department of Domestic Security—complete with cybernetic eyeball that also functions as a spy cam.
The head of the DDS, Bill Nelson (Bob Hoskins), taps her as the perfect person for a special mission cooked up by the Prime Minister (Alexander Siddig, Syriana). Things are not good in what’s left of Britain, you see. The virus has cropped up in the poorest parts of London, but as luck and careful scripting would have it, there’ve been reports of survivors in Scotland. Could this mean there’s a cure? Well, the only way to find out is to send a small group—headed by Eden, of course—to investigate.
Once they get to Scotland, the movie turns into something like George Miller’s The Road Warrior (1981) on acid. As outrageous as Miller’s film was, he somehow forgot to include an ‘80s pop-song stage show complete with dancers in kilts and cannibalism (there’s even a grilling device that seems inspired by Silent Hill (2006)). Marshall thoughtfully makes up for these obvious omissions and keeps adding to them. These additions include—but aren’t limited to—various beheadings, a steam train, knights in armor, a mad-scientist-turned-feudal-lord complete with a castle-turned-tourist-attraction-turned-castle and more spectacular chases than a stick can be comfortably shaken at. I won’t say more because the fun of the film lies in its ability to leap from improbability to improbability without flinching. It’s tacky, tasteless, violent, gory and deliberately campy. I’m not sure what more you could want from this sort of movie. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexual content/nudity.