Stars:Josh Merrill, Brooke Hemsath, Joel Manwaring
Right of the bat, 2 HOURS pulls off something that sure ain't a common occurrence in these dark days of endless remakes, reboots and recycled plots...it finds a new and very interesting way to approach the zombie sub-genre.
Telling its tale via the lethargic, weary voiceover of its protagonist; 2 HOURS details the emotional journey of a recently infected survivor of the undead apocalypse, as he struggles to find sanctuary and a cure in the short window of time afforded to him, ( the 2 hours of the title), before his succumbing to the disease and his inevitable resurrection as a flesh-hungry monster.
As time slowly but surely passes by, and our hero delves deeper int his own psyche, we learn something of his past, of his future, of his fear and of his eventual, surprisingly beautiful acceptance of his fate. For the films twenty six minute run-time, we get to follow this one mans rapidly encroaching deterioration.
Of course, this angle has been approached before in THE WALKING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD and others, but what sets this engaging and touching little ditty apart from its piers is its focus upon the internal, spiritual struggle our bitten buddy finds himself forced to endure. The film does feature all the good stuff...the zombie attacks...the post apocalyptic vibe we all love so much, and gore-hounds will surely be pleased with the viscera on show; but its the tone of the work that makes 2 HOURS stand on its own as a singular, original film. By utilising ambient soundscapes that range from beautiful to severely disquieting, and with the use of such a strangely languid voiceover and cinematography, the film elicits a sense of building dread and despair that feels, to be blunt, a lot like a bad acid trip. As death approaches and the leads sanity begins to crumble along with his life-force, the narrative runs the gamut from fear and loneliness to rage, insanity and ultimately peace. Its a real accomplishment to draw an audience into this fella's tale in so short a time.
Its written very well too, with the first person narrative veering from free-form dementia to declarations of love for those left behind. Again...it feels like a very harsh drug-dream. A dark night of the soul occurring just as the soul is about to be devoured by infection. The voice-over work is initially a little off-putting, as it feels almost slowed down to give a dreamlike, hazy overtone to the proceedings, but as begin to accept it as the sluggish, dying thought process of a mind who's cogs are winding down, it makes much more sense. It may be a problem for some viewers, but for me, the stoned and dethroned, ethereal vocal only helped add to the sense of otherness. Of something subtly skewed from reality.
As I mentioned, 2 HOURS was made on a minuscule budget, but this is never an issue with the immersion of the piece, either. Utilising barren and derelict locales works two-fold for the production. On one hand, it looks suitably post-apocalyptic without the use of cheap CG to cover up the cracks in the financing, and more importantly, it accentuates the sense of isolation that the lead is enduring as his death comes calling. Nothing is put to waste here. Each camera-shot, each word, each wash of ambient sound...they all serve the story being told.
2 HOURS is well worth your time whether your a zombie-fan or whether your burned out by the whole sub-genres over-exposure. Its a dark, sombre look at mortality and vague hope in a hopeless situation. There are few indie shorts out there that look this good, and even fewer that can engage on such an emotional level. If theres any justice in the world; Director Micheal Ballif and co-writer Josh Merrill are going places. The talent and the potential is clear to see. Catch this one if you can, you won't be disappointed.
8 Inner Voices out of 10