Zombieland the dramatic retelling
Carriers (2009): 6 out of 10: What amazes me about Carriers is how it has the exact same plot as Zombieland. A story about two siblings traveling across a devastated and depopulated United States to visit a theme park in California that reminds them of childhood. The movies even share the same fetish for a nerdy character that has come up with all the rules to keep them alive.
While Zombieland was filmed in early 2009 and released later that year on 3000 plus screens; Carriers was filmed in 2006 and released on a hundred screens in 2009 to virtually no fanfare. Only the actor Chris Pine’s recent starring role in the Star Trek movie caused it to be released theatrically at all.
The other main difference is while Zombieland on the surface may appear to be a horror-comedy like Shaun of the Dead it is more of a straightforward comedy with gore and zombies. Carriers also appears to be a horror film on the surface, but it really isn’t. This is a large D drama that starts off serious and gets disheartening before the end credits roll.
Carriers is a medical drama writ large mixed with a post-apocalyptic future. There are no zombies or even 28 Days Later pseudo zombies. This is not an exploitation film as there is no nudity or violence; there is also very little action. There is simply a small handful of sick people, a small handful of not yet sick people and a copious amount of dead people. It is more a sequel to a bird flu movie than a Dawn of the Dead film.
Carriers’ biggest problem is it is hard to root for any of the characters. Chris Pine and Lou Taylor Pucci play the siblings heading to their childhood vacation spot (of which we see strange seventies-era Super 8 nostalgia footage though judging by the age of the characters their childhood was in 1995). Pucci is the rules nerd, while Pine is a super jerk (or as TV Tropes wisely points out a Psycho Party Member).
Then you have the ladies. Emily VanCamp plays what would seem to Pucci’s girlfriend, but she is frigid, preppy, and possibly a lesbian. At the very least the “I wouldn’t kiss you if you were the last man on earth” rule seems to apply here. Piper Perabo as Pine’s girlfriend is borderline likable, but she is whiny and a liar and I am grading on a curve here.
Only Christopher Meloni as a father with an already sick daughter seems to pull on the heartstrings, but he isn’t a member of the core group and they separate ways halfway through.
The acting is good across the board with Meloni and VanCamp the standouts. The film also seems much grounded in its reality, and logic is safely tucked into bed every night. I wish the movie was about a different group of survivors.