Anti-heroes & Undead heroes: A review of Cargo

When it comes to monsters and the Halloween tradition, what’s more classic than the good ol’ zombie? Everywhere you turn they’re found bashing in skulls and slurping out brains like they’re noodles. But is it possible to convey this classic undead nightmare without actually doing the whole “I want to eat your brains” thing?

Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke’s short film Cargo, submitted to the 2013 Tropfest Australia Short Film Festival, gives a wonderfully nouveau take on the “go to gore” classic. In Cargo, a father journeys to save his daughter from himself. Infected by his zombie wife, this father searches for a safe spot to send his child before he too becomes a monster. The film is bold and gutsy (pun intended), displaying the life of a transforming zombie from a human standpoint. He succumbs to the disease, but not to his desire for human flesh.

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Howling and Ramke’s vision for this piece breathes new life into a cookie-cutter world where the undead are the vessel of villainous actions. Rather than going the traditional route,  Cargo shows that even monsters have hearts and that the love of a father can outdo vicious cravings. The absence of dialogue heightens the tension; normally horror films are riddled with clichéd dialogue and humor that undercuts the jumps-scares, gory makeup, and bloody effects. If the monsters don’t make you want to run for cover, the scripted conversations between characters will. That’s what makes Cargo successful; there are no words to take away from the visuals.

Another noticeable difference is the film’s lack of fancy props and bloodshed. The minimalism in the background — a few trails of blood, a smashed car, a bag of guts, and one sequence of a seriously bloodied zombie — directs the focus to the father and his daughter. There is a pleasant contrast between the clean, fair presentation of the baby daughter and the injured father. While her clothes are nice and clean, his are torn and stained. Aside from a cut here and there, the makeup was light for this project, allowing the viewer’s attention to linger on the moments where things get messy.

Setting also plays a huge role in this film. The desolate fields through which the father travels almost conceal the horrors within them. The setting  acts as camouflage, pulling at the paranoia of the world’s dangers.

Of course, the obvious difference between this short and most zombie films is its happy ending. The film ends with death, but at the touching closing scene my heart melted. Was the father a monster to begin with? Are zombies always villains? And is it true that all zombies go for the head?

Decide for yourself, watch the film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gryenlQKTbE

– Contributed by Hannah-Sophie Hirsch

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