(Australia/UK - 2018)
Directed by Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling. Written by Yolanda Ramke. Cast: Martin Freeman, Anthony Hayes, Susie Porter, Caren Pistorius, Kris McQuade, David Gulpilil, Simone Landers, Bruce R. Carter, Natasha Wanganeen, Andy Rodoreda, Marlee Jane McPherson-Dobbins, Lily Anne McPherson-Dobbins, Finlay Sjoberg, Nova Sjoberg. (Unrated, 104 mins)
With its setting in the desolate Outback and the presence of veteran Australian cult hero David Gulpilil in a supporting role, it would be easy to snarkily dismiss the zombie apocalypse saga CARGO as THE WALKABOUT DEAD. It would seem that the last thing the horror genre needs is yet another zombie movie, but some recent offerings--like TRAIN TO BUSAN, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS, and now this--seem cognizant of that and do things to stand out from the crowd. CARGO, a Netflix pickup, begins in a standard fashion but as it goes on, it stays focused on character and atmosphere, with the zombie sightings and flesh-chomping kept to a minimum. A feature-length expansion of a seven-minute 2013 short film by directors Yolanda Ramke (who also scripted) and Ben Howling, CARGO opens on a boat found and commandeered by Andy (SHERLOCK's Martin Freeman) and his wife Kay (Susie Porter). It's the aftermath of a viral pandemic, and every day is a struggle to find safe food for themselves and their one-year-old daughter Rosie (played by two different sets of twins) and avoid attracting the attention of the undead, here called "diggers." We soon learn, when Kay is attacked, that a bite from a digger usually gives the victim 48 hours before turning. Her wound, however, is so deep that the time is accelerated and as she turns sooner than expected, with an odd, mummified webbing forming over her eyes and face, she attacks and bites an exhausted Andy, who fell asleep while keeping watch on her. After mercy-killing what was once his wife, Andy, carrying Rosie on his back, ventures on foot to find some viable safe haven for his daughter before the inevitable happens.