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Zombie Flick 'Cargo' Breathes New Life into the Genre

You’d think, by 2018, the slew of zombie films on offer would have investigated every conceivable avenue of what might happen in an invasion of shuffling corpses. But, 2017’s Australian horror flick Cargo shows that there are still some stones left unturned when it comes to the walking dead. The film did well at the Adelaide Film Festival in 2017 and looks set to debut worldwide this (northern) summer. The plot focuses on a husband and wife, Andy (Martin Freeman) and Kay (Caren Pistorius), who have been surviving on a houseboat in zombie overrun Australia. But, when Kay is bitten and has 48 hours before the infection renders her lifeless, they must leave the safety of the water and travel to a hospital.

The plot of the film focuses on our protagonists as potentially succumbing to the virus themselves, while most other zombie films use the protagonist as our eyes into the new world. By giving us an ego-centric journey as opposed to one where we are objective viewers, the ramifications of becoming a zombie are felt more. The film utilizes its setting in Australia to bring in a narrative about the Aboriginal Australiansstill present in much of Australia, and rarely the focus of mainstream film. Giving a narrative that features the relationship in Australia with the native people wrapped up in a zombie film gives new meaning to both genres.

Despite the number of zombie films that have been released, the love for the genre is undying as the brain-craving bunch themselves – but it’s through the new take on the time honoured tradition. The ability to take horror as a genre and mould it to tell a different story or focus on a different angle has kept the genre with a healthy fanbase. For example, zombie games such as State of Decay 2 and Overkill’s The Walking Dead, a VR first-person shooter zombie experience, show that there are plenty of eager zombie fans who are ready for a faster-paced take on the shambling hordes. While the horror-themed slot House of Doom, with its skull and occult-themed imagery, shows that new takes on existing genres can help reinvigorate horror and its offshoots. The John Krasinksi-Emily Blunt hushed horror The Quiet Place took the genre down a new path with its take on how sound is important in horror films, while Unsane turns the tables on the stalker genre of tense horror by making audiences question everything.

One aspect that Cargo does with its take on post-apocalyptic Australia is focus on a character, Vic, who believes that one day the world will return to normal. Rarely do zombie flicks focus on the long-term as opposed to day-by-day survival. By living his life on the off-chance that the world will rectify itself, the zombie narrative is given a wider perspective and the true extent of the damage can be seen. The world will never return to normal. Spoilers aside for how the film ends, protagonist Andy’s own battle with becoming a zombie fuels the film and the metaphor of the treatment of Aboriginal Australians is thinly veiled through the zombie narrative. Ultimately, the zombie film is turned on its head while retaining the hallmarks that fans tune in to see.

Cargo is due for worldwide release in summer 2018 and will bring dialogues regarding native Australians and the long-term plan for a zombie onslaught to light. The film will likely add to the ongoing discourse regarding the genre and the different takes and focuses different directors choose to play into with the genre.

Published 1/6/2018

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