It doesn’t take long for a nagging sense of familiarity to creep in during Johnny Martin’s zombie pandemic drama Final Days. The plot involving a young gamer and vlogger negotiating loneliness, hunger, and infection in a high rise apartment is identical to another film released recently. Devotees of the more obscure corners of Netflix originals may remember, hidden amid the Indonesian rom-coms, Turkish cop thrillers, and Italian melodramas, a Korean film called #Alive. It turns out that, through some weird quirk of release dates, Final Days is technically a remake of the original, but #Alive was adapted from a story by Matt Naylor, whose own screenplay forms the basis of this American take. The differences are negligible, but generally for the worse.
Aidan (Teen Wolf pinup Tyler Posey) is a louche young man who we first see waking up next to a woman who the script doesn’t deem to name. Rising late, he has missed the initial stages of a viral outbreak which has turned the majority of the city, including most of the residents of his apartment block, into frenzied zombies known as ‘screamers’. They’ve earned this nickname as, in a nice touch, the victims repeatedly howl the last thing they uttered before they died. This is down to a hyper-stimulation of the basal ganglia that leaves the sufferer an aggressive shell yelling things like, ‘Help me!” or “Get away!” as they attack. Aidan spends the next weeks in interminable isolation scavenging for food and avoiding being munched himself. Then by chance he notices a young woman in the block opposite who also seems to have survived.
Final Days (Aka Alone) is seemingly geared towards the post-Twilight viewers who may would have gravitated towards Teen Wolf and perhaps like their monsters with their teeth filed down a little. Posey is front-and-centre throughout, with every opportunity to be presented topless and morose taken. While something of an anti-hero – he has one-night-stands for goodness sake – he’s far less instantly egregious than Ah-in Yoo‘s parallel protagonist in #Alive. While this makes him easier company, there is little else to his character besides a bland, brooding sub-Chalamet charm. It also gives him far less of a compelling arc. Poor Summer Spiro, as fellow survivor/ inevitable love interest Eva, fare even less well as her one-dimensional damsel is clearly intended not to upstage the tattooed, shirt-phobic lead. In the filmmaker’s defence, they then let the great Donald Sutherland saunter in to steal the show in the one scene that dares to dig beneath the surface into the swells of grief, loss, and madness of a society’s collapse. What attracted him to the project is anyone’s guess, but he’s a welcome injection of genuine class.
Otherwise, there is little to recommend about Final Days. From the acting through the cinematography, which is curiously flat and over-exposed, there is little to stand out. It is largely bloodless too, as if they were wary of letting things get too nasty. Thematically, it’s similarly thin gruel. In chopping Aidan’s career as a gamer and vlogger, it also strips out the semblance of subtext that #Alive had about whether a life lived online is genuinely living. All that’s there is a soppy optimism in the conquering power of love which is ill-suited to the material. It also feels curiously constrained until a frantic final 15 minutes, yet fails to generate any atmosphere of tension or claustrophobia. It’s hard to see Final Days as anything other than a gateway introduction to the genre for curious youngsters, but there are many movies that serve this function far better.
A toothless American version of a film that itself is no more than mildly diverting, Final Days is likely to come and go largely unnoticed. Confusion over its title won’t help. Is it Final Days? Alone? Some review sites have it as Pandemic. That is a connection that is barely even worth making any more. That we’re now ourselves more than familiar with the general situation of the film’s protagonist lessens its impact instead of enhancing it.
Available On-demand and on DVD from Mon Apr 12 2021