Doomsday (2008)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell
Extras: Video Commentary, Tech Specs, Reaper Virus Files

I knew absolutely nothing about "Doomsday" until recently a press release appeared indicating the film would appear on DVD and Blu-Ray. I had not caught any theatrical buzz or trailers and as such the film was a complete novelty to me. It sounded intriguing enough for me to want to take a look, although with some inhibitions, and I grabbed the Blu-Ray version when it finally arrived.

A virus outbreak in Scotland decimates the population within days. Killing everyone in its wake the Reaper virus is a deadly plague without any hope for cure. In an attempt to prevent it from spreading further, Scotland is isolated; a high wall now separating Scotland from the rest of Britain. Crossing the wall means death as its fortress-like defense systems shoot and incinerate anything that gets within range.

Of course the presumed safety is only an illusion and before long a virus outbreak in the heart of London threatens to devastate the rest if the isles and with it most likely the world. The only help is to find a cure, and with survivors showing up in the supposed deadlands of Scotland, the government hopes to find the cure right there in the dead zone, presumably created by a government scientist who had been left behind.

A small team of Special Ops is therefore entering the dead zone in order to find the scientist and the cure. Little do they know what expects them.

Not a lot of new things here, I know, but don't let the story mislead you. The film started out with a very strong Romero-esque "Day Of The Dead" feel, infused by Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later" and John Carpenter's "Escape From New York." But from there it becomes an amazing amalgamation of elements that are perfectly fused together. Once inside the dead zone the film completely shifts focus and turns into a modern version of "The Road Warrior" that is every bit as explosive and action-laden as the original.

The strength of "Doomsday" is not so much its story or its cast of characters. Many will find the excessive, graphic violence the film's highlight, but to me it is the fact that for once the filmmakers did not try to blatantly rip-off familiar movies because they didn't have the ability to do any better, but in order to truly celebrate the films and to pay homage. In many ways the Mad Max references in "Doomsday" are more true to the film than "The Road Warrior" itself. This film is the next step, the movie "Beyond Thunderdome" always wanted to be before it got bogged down in senseless 80s glamour-pomp. "Doomsday" oftentimes directly quotes from George Miller's "Road Warrior" with such incredible authenticity that it is a pleasure to watch and especially Sol's character conjuring up memories of the Mohawk-sporting Wez is marvelous top behold, as are the low-angle shots of the black car speeding down deserted roads at high speeds.

The same is true with the Romero references in the film towards the beginning. Once again the filmmakers capture the essence of Romero's zombie horror without even having zombies. But the imagery they created is every bit as horrifying and frightening as if these boil-plastered people were the walking dead.

The strength of "Doomsday" is clearly its nod to these classics and the skill with which these elements have been woven together. Never mind the weak dialogues and characters, never mind the excessive gore that got distracting after a while, but instead say "Hello" to the incredible intensity and attitude this film oozes. Once it gets rolling, there is not a single breather and the action just keeps going and going until the very end. I have not been engaged in a movie like this in a long time, I admit.

The high definition transfer of the movie is without flaws. Presented in 1080p the image is incredible rich and detailed. There is a hint of grain evident at times, reminding us that we are watching a film and not a Pixar computer-animation, and adding to the harsh feel of the world the film throws us into. Due to its nature a large portion of the film is set in dark environments that are blocked by shadows and accentuated by harsh highlights. The transfer has absolutely no trouble reproducing the look and with its deep blacks the image had incredible depth. Shadows do not lose detail however and wherever there should be image information, the transfer clearly reads it. Colors are strong and bold, nicely contrasting the stark contrast of the imagery.

A powerful 5.1 DTS-HD audio track complements the movie on this release and it is every bit as engaging as you'd hope. With wonderful clarity and a solid bass extension, the track makes very aggressive use of the discrete channels and plays all its muscles nicely. There's not a moment where the track gets in the way or flattens out to break the illusion. It is a wide sound field that envelops the viewer constantly and bombards us with noises and effects from all directions. Great stuff!

The release also contains a number of bonus materials, such as a cool picture-in-picture commentary track with plenty of valuable information. While PIP is not really my bag, I found it fun to watch as it gave me the chance to see certain things side by side and just to hear about the film's production.

Also included a tech spec files on the Bentley – the modern version of Max's Interceptor in a wicked way – and the countless badass weapons you see in the film. Further look for the Reaper Virus Files with additional behind the scenes info complementing the film directly.

"Doomsday" was a complete surprise for me. During the first 10 minutes I wasn't quite sure if I liked this movie, whether the filmmakers were simply trying to take an easy-cash-in rip-off approach to existing movies or if they were setting up something bigger. Fortunately for all of us, they did and "Doomsday" is one of the most gripping and action-packed films I've seen in a while. If you want attitude in a film, you've got it right here. Plentiful!