The zombie-horror genre is one of the most over-wrought in all of popular media, be it film, books, or video games. It’s refreshing, then, when a film like Ever After (original German title Endzeit) comes along with a relatively new take on the genre, in part due to how it blends other genre elements to create something almost wholly new.
Two years after a zombie outbreak wipes out all but a pair of German cities, two girls (Vivi (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) and Eva (Maja Lehrer)) flee the martial city of Weimar in the hopes of finding help in the more academic-orientated Jena. So far, so par for the course, however there is something much deeper to be found in this film than one might initially expect to find.
Based on the graphic novel Endzeit by Olivia Vieweg (who also adapted it to film), Ever After is in part a story about loss, grief, and about accepting one’s place in the world, while also carrying a powerful environmental message. It’s a deeply introspective film, dealing with the psychological impact of a zombie outbreak, as well as the guilt felt by the survivors of the initial outbreak and the associated trauma. Rare are scenes of actual violence, though that is not to say the film is unwilling to be gruesome when necessary.
As the name suggests, Ever After is as much a fairy tale as a horror, which is a combination one might not expect to work as well as it does. The pair encounter abandoned castles filled with lush vegetation and even wood-witches on their journey, alongside a verisimilitude of different types of zombies. The film leans fully into its fantastical element by the end, but the ever-present threat and horror is never far away. All of which feels oddly natural thanks to the forested locales of Germany that serve as the backdrop.
There’s a duality that permeates every aspect of the film, be it the opposing natures of its two protagonists – the naive and traumatised Vivi and the survivalist, no-nonsense Eva – or the way that nature has reclaimed degraded machinery. Even the two titles, Endzeit (German for Last Days) and Ever After, invoke the balance between hope and nihilism that is somehow captured in the film, and is also integral to its overall message.
Ever After is not flawless however, and it certainly lulls at points in a way that feels rather unfocused, with one particularly exposition-laden scene bordering on tedium. Similarly, certain plot points and tropes arise which anyone with a fleeting familiarity with the zombie genre will detect from a mile away. Furthermore, certain aspects do feel rather derivative, especially for anyone who has played The Last of Us.
Overall though, that does not stop Ever After from being an enjoyable watch that delivers a mostly fresh take on what is otherwise a very stale corpse of a genre with its unique blend of horror and fairy tale.