Zombies, they are everywhere in horror films. Although he wasn’t the first to feature zombies in a film, George Romero set the standard with his 1968 classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and since then the undead have been shuffling, or in some cases sprinting, their way across movie screens in ever increasing numbers. With so many films featuring the undead out there one might ask how can anyone bring something new to the zombie genre? Director Chris Conlee and writer Brian Patrick O’Toole take a stab at bringing something different to the zombie lexicon with their film EVILUTION.
EVILUTION starts out with the undead already running amok inside a laboratory on a US base in IRAQ. Only these undead are not your ordinary mindless flesh eaters. They have been re-animated by a microscopic alien organism that the government hopes to use to develop a serum for resurrecting dead soldiers on the battlefield. The alien life form has its own ideas though and thus the zombie outbreak. One young scientist, Darren Hall (Eric Peter-Kaiser) manages to escape the lab with a sample of the virus, just before the entire site is nuked to prevent the spread of the organism.
Determined to find a way to communicate with the alien life form, Darren makes his way back to the US and takes refuge in a seedy apartment building called the Necropolitan. He rents the basement of the building and sets up his own laboratory there. The military sends Sgt. Gabriel Collins (Tim Colceri) to find Darren and recapture or eliminate the alien virus sample. Of course government agents aren’t Darren’s only problems; he must deal with the eccentric collection of tenants roaming the building’s halls including the creepy building manager (Nathan Bexton) and a small time local gang headed by Random (Noel Gugliemi). His only friend is a young woman named Maddie (Sandra Ramirez) who helps him stay out of the gang’s way and quickly becomes his love interest. Unfortunately, Darren’s experiments go awry when he tries using a serum made with the virus to save Random’s life after he’s shot. Now Darren must team up with Sgt. Collins to stop the virus before it can escape the building and infect the world.
EVILUTION is a different sort of zombie film. For one thing, after the fast paced start, the film slows down quickly and spends time developing the characters and story before re-introducing the undead menace… which brings up another point, the source of the threat. The sentient alien virus provides an interesting twist as the undead now represent the media for an invasion and conquest of the planet, not just a mindless hoard of flesh eaters. Conlee also paces the film well allowing the characters to become more than just two-dimensional zombie bait.
The film’s primary location, the Necropolitan apartment building, takes on its own role as it becomes evident that a zombie outbreak is not the first strange and evil occurrence that has happened within its walls. The film hints that there is more to the building and its manager than first meets the eye and that it may be a setting for other stories in the future.
All in all, EVILUTION is a fun film to watch. Although there are times when the logic of the characters’ actions can only be put down to “plot convenience” the story as a whole is good and original. The film is also well cast. Peter-Kaiser is well suited to the role of the misguided scientist and Colceri makes an excellent military “problem solver”. However, it is Nathan Bexton’s portrayal of the Necropolitan’s manager that steels the show as he comes across as a cross between Hannibal Lector and Mr. Roper the landlord from “Three’s Company”. So check out Chris Conlee’s EVILUTION if for no other reason than to see what might be hiding in the manager’s display cabinets.