In a post-zombie apocalypse world, people have learned to live in harmony with zombies — understanding they have no interest in humans except when provoked. This harmonious existence leads to problems as people realize that death is not the end, and continue to cling on to those they have lost instead of moving on. Clay Marshall is frustrated with his sister who is having this exact problem, but the decision he makes in order to rectify the situation may bring about the end of humanity.
Wild Eye’s latest release, “A Plague So Pleasant”, is the feature film debut of Benjamin Roberds and Jordan Reyes. A unique spin on the zombie subgenre that has gardened them and their film with plenty of accolades on the film’s originality. And while I don’t necessarily disagree about the uniqueness on the spin or twist that was used, I did have a hard time finding there to be any substantial difference between “A Plague So Pleasant” and anything else zombie related.
Not to sound like a valley girl talking about trends, but zombies have become the new slasher within the last decade. That’s if you want to consider the “Dawn of the Dead” remake as the starting point of the zombie revival, which I personally do. And because they are the new slasher, media creators tend to put their focus on trying to find a fresh approach to tired material. With “A Plague So Pleasant”, they try to find a different take on not only the zombies, but how you present that material. Benjamin and Jordan’s film is an attempt to bring an experimental-arthouse aesthetic to the zombie subgenre and it worked somewhat okay.
There is a layer of humor in “A Plague So Pleasant” that’s a little subtle and a bit tongue-in-cheek, which I appreciated since it helped to keep the movie from feeling pretentious. The reason I say pretentious is because of that arthouse approach the movie has to both its story and presentation. With the plot revolving around non-threatening zombies and treating them more as an alternate level of existence, it occasionally feels like the film is making a comment about life. Especially in regards to how people cannot let go with the loss of a loved one, and how our protagonist’s attempt to help his sister backfires, triggers a (new) zombie apocalypse, and his own eventual downfall. This concept is presented for the first third of the movie, in black and white while using dramatic camera angles — where as the middle is in color with more hand-held shots.
These things are not necessarily bad since they are done with the intention of giving “A Plague So Pleasant” its own characteristics. In my opinion though, it’s in the service of nothing because at the end of the day “A Plague So Pleasant” simply becomes another zombie movie. I certainly appreciate that some thought was put into the look of the movie and the setup is interesting enough, but it quickly degenerates into a standard zombie apocalypse: people running from hordes of zombies. If you break the movie down, you only have story in the beginning of the movie that’s somewhat resolved in the end. The entire middle chunk of the movie is simply our lead character running and hiding from zombies. Nothing occurs that relates to the setup nor does it actually have anything to do with the way it ends. Oddly, the movie resolves itself through its concept rather than by the actions of the main character.
Breaking from a typical narrative structure isn’t bad at all. Where it becomes a problem for “A Plague So Pleasant” is that the only uniqueness that differentiates it from other zombie movies exists strictly in the beginning. Once the zombie rampage is triggered, and the film cross fades from black and white to color (because experimental, that’s why), it loses it’s own identity to people running from or being eaten by zombies.
“A Plague So Pleasant” is a movie where I appreciate what the cast and crew were trying to do since the concept is good and that first third of movie was trying to do something interesting. It’s unfortunate that the movie isn’t able to maintain that interest and becomes nothing more than a standard zombie movie instead. Certainly there are far worse low-budget, and big-budget, zombie movies out there — at least Benjamin and Jordan were trying to do something with their movie, which is more than what can be said for others in this subgenre. And with the right crowd, I think “A Plague So Pleasant” could play very well. For me though, I’m just not part of the film’s target audience.