Mutants (2009) – By Cary Conley

The French renaissance in horror and the extreme has been well underway for nearly a decade now. Perhaps starting with 2003’s Haute Tension and continuing on with films such as Martyrs (2008), Frontier(s) (2007), Inside (2007), and the films of Gaspar Noe’ (although I wouldn’t technically classify his films as horror, they certainly contain a great deal of horrific content), French films in America have certainly seen a surge in popularity over the last few years.

Enter Mutants, a gory French horror film from just a couple of years ago. A virus has spread across the country, turning anyone unlucky enough to be contaminated into a ravenous cannibalistic fiend. There are pockets of survivors, and of course the military has safeguarded installments scattered about, so people not contaminated by the virus are trying to make their way towards one of these military outposts.

Sonia and Marco are paramedics as well as lovers who managed to survive the viral onslaught and are trying to make their way to safety. Sonia has been bitten but is asymptomatic, so she may be the only link to humanity surviving this medical catastrophe; Marco is safe for now. They make their way across the snowy French Alps, pulling into the parking lot of a large, abandoned building just as their ambulance runs out of gas. Now they must hole up and try to survive attacks by both mutants as well as other groups of desperate and very paranoid uninfected survivors as they try to contact the military for evacuation.

This is a fun, if unoriginal, cannibal/zombie film that reminds me mostly of 28 Days Later as well as last year’s remake of George Romero’s The Crazies. From the beginning it is made clear that the victims are not truly zombies, but victims transformed into rabid cannibals by the virus. Not only do they lose their minds and memories, but there are physical transformations as well. These ravenous monsters are out of control, pissed off, and fast. Woe be unto anyone who becomes trapped by one or more of these beasts.

There is some human drama as Marco is bitten and locked in a cage as the illness takes hold. Sonia can’t bring herself to kill her love, plus she knows she is immune, so she is holding out hope for a possible cure and salvation for Marco. More drama ensues as another group of refugees takes shelter in the abandoned building, taking control and holding Sonia hostage. But mostly there is plenty of gore and quite a few jump-scares as well, as this is primarily a horror/gore movie.

There are plenty of scenes of flesh-biting and flesh-eating along with gunshot wounds, limbs being hacked off, etc. As in the French tradition of the last decade or so, there is plenty of blood spurting, with a combination of physical effects with digital blood sprays added for extra effect. When action is occurring—and that is during a majority of the film—there are rapid edits as well as shaky camera shots, again reminding me of 28 Days Later.

In the end, Sonia is the sole remaining survivor, picked up by a military helicopter. The film leaves the ending open for a sequel as Sonia tells the soldiers she is immune from the virus…and she is pregnant. We’ve seen this film a dozen times before, with some examples being better and some not as good. I enjoyed the film for what it was—just a rehash of a fun and bloody sub-genre of horror films, but if you are looking for creativity or originality, bypass this flick. If you want a bit of mindless gore and intense action, this film ain’t bad for a slow Saturday night.