Because the concept of a post-apocalyptic zombie world lends itself so well to studies of human nature and its relationship with violence — topics which are always relevant — movies of the genre have a tendency to all look the same. German film Ever After attempts to innovate with an eye-opening idea: what if the zombie apocalypse was a chance to start over, to create a world where women are in control?
Directed by a woman with an entirely female crew, Ever After follows Vivi (Gro Swantje Kohlhof), a shy and proper young woman guided only by her feelings of guilt: two years prior, she left her younger sister behind to escape from a horde of zombies. She meets Eva (Maja Lehrer), a strong zombie-killer who, unlike the emotive Vivi, hides her fears behind a wall of strength and determination. Despite their differences, both girls decide to leave Weimar, where anyone suspected of infection is immediately killed. This brutal method is why the German city remains uninfected, but rumours of another safe town with a gentler approach push Vivi and Eva to run away.
From then on, the film enters a more lyrical and contemplative phase. Walking across a dangerous yet beautiful landscape abandoned to vegetation, the two girls get to know each other. That they are so different from one another, and do not instantly become friends, would be a thrilling feminist victory if their characters weren’t so cliched. Indeed, the film’s most original ideas are weighed down by poor and unfocused execution. As though anxious to bore its viewers, the film’s calmer moments are repeatedly interrupted by unimpressive and random zombie attacks. This, along with poor dialogue and an obtrusive, heightened visual style, adds to the general confusion. The throughline of the story has to picked up again after every disruption, as if it was slipping away from the hands of the filmmaker. On paper, the film’s final twist is a logical and smart conclusion, but by that time, we are already lost.
Ever After was seen and reviewed at the Toronto International Film Festival 2018.