A. Zombie Reviews: Cargo (2018)
By A. Zombie
Rated: TV-MA (Contains violence, gore, and adult language)
Starring: Martin Freeman, Simone Landers, Susie Porter, Caren Pistorius, and Anthony Hayes
When we think about current affairs in genre films, the adage has ventured far from, “Less is more.” With streaming services like Netflix dipping their toes in the game, we’ve seen stronger and stronger independent horror films popping up like mushrooms after rain. Given such support, filmmakers seem to be willing to venture further from the standard ho-hum zombie flick. Cargo is not a movie you’ll watch through your fingertips. But that’s not to say the movie lacks anything. The emotional and cultural depth are what put it on new level. So while this movie has less, well, everything than something like World War Z, it’s not one to overlook because it’s, “Just another indie movie.”
Even Netflix doesn’t believe in it, giving me a sixty-something percentage on the compatibility scale, despite my watch history being almost entirely genre films—including several indies with similar vibes, but inferior cinematography.
Here’s the plot rundown:
Australia’s coastline and major cities teem with people infected by a cannibalistic virus. Aboriginal people still connected to the old ways make their way to their ancestral homes seeking refuge from the “ghosts” haunting the plains. Other lucky souls make it away from the worst by sticking to the waterways.
Andy, his wife Kay, and their infant daughter Rosie are supremely lucky to have a houseboat and a smaller motor boat at their disposal. But food is scarce. Scavenging for supplies comes at a steep cost. With a 48-hour timer on Kay’s final moments, Andy makes the call to find help at the nearest town. Kay never makes it after they cross paths with a wandering ghost on the road. Andy winds up infected in the chaos. The ghost isn’t alone, trailed by his daughter Thoomi. The pair are on the lam, Thoomi fearing her people will put her father to rest without giving the Clever Man a chance to reunite his soul with his ghost. Which, ultimately, they do while the girl is imprisoned by Vic.
Vic, the man with a plan for “after” the apocalypse, will get his way no matter what—just ask his wife-not-wife, Lorraine. Andy likewise has a run-in with Vic, also ending with his imprisonment. Together, Andy and Thoomi escape with Rosie. They help each other across the unforgiving Australian landscape in search of anywhere safe for Rosie to grow up. Eventually Thoomi’s home is the only logical choice. Getting there will take every last bit of life left in Thoomi and Andy.
Right out the gate, one can’t help but wonder over how well the filmmakers utilize Australia as the setting in general. With so few city or building locations for the characters to return to, it makes sense to use what they have in abundance to fill in the gaps and establish the groundwork for a seriously well-shot movie. As said earlier, you won’t watch this one through your fingers, and that’s because you won’t want to miss a second of the gorgeous Australian landscape.
The cast makes acting in a location-heavy genre flick look easy, and it’s far, far from it. On this shoot in particular, the weather was downright terrifying, but one would never know that from the way everything’s edited together, aided massively by the seemingly effortless acting from the leads. Freeman and Landers are on the exact opposite ends of the experience spectrum, yet you’d never know it unless you looked further into the film. Their skill and ability to use it to forge a bond on-screen is what makes Cargo so compelling in the second half. Despite the audience knowing early on how things will probably end, they’ll still find themselves rooting for the duo to win against this unseen foe.
Said foe isn’t unseen for long. The zombie effects are a far cry from what we’ve seen lately. I know I say that at least once a year, but this time it’s real, dang-it. For one thing, these zombies are a little goopy. Their blood is gelatinous, discolored, and ample. Each victim undergoes a slow change, suffering seizures and leaking goop until their orifices seal over with it, which signals the final death and transformation. The eye and mouth sealing effect is downright nasty. World’s worst eye boogers. As for the rest of the makeup? The zombies are generally pale with oozing wounds, relying heavily on movement and the crusty face to sell the idea. It works for what this is, and that’s not a grand zombie chase across the countryside. It’s two broken families desperately finding a way to make sure the next generation sees the future, and that’s nearly impossible because mankind’s corruption has rotted the world so much, even the dead are wrong.
A breath of fresh air, Cargo far exceeded my expectations. I’m going to give it four smoldering corpses out of five. Grab a few friends and treat them to just under two hours of quality time together watching this movie. It’s a great way to take a break from the corruption rotting the real world.