The "killer virus" setup isn't my favorite, but with writer/director Neil Marshall (The Descent) manning the microscope, I was willing to give it a shot. And let me tell you, Doomsday does give this tired genre a shot in the arm by playing it up with old school adoration (ala Mad Max, Escape From New York, and, while not as comical, Death Race 2000) and slathering it on super-duper gory (a characteristic Marshall move).
The Reaper virus wiped out most of Earth's population in 2008, but strongholds of survivors remain, even 25 years later. With a grave voiceover by the matchless Malcolm McDowell (who later makes an appearance in the film, complete with his Dr. Loomis 'stache and beard), the back story is told while graphic, violent, and bleak imagery sets the scene for the introduction of our heroine. She's one-eyed, double-fisted Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra), and she takes no prisoners (probably because she's too busy being beautiful). When the Reaper virus mutates and pops up again, it's up to the badass babe — on a mission from the British government, naturally — to go into the trenches and find a cure.
The cure is cradled in the most dangerous and darkest of places: in the fortress of a sadistic society of cannibal warriors, who look like something out of a mid-1980s music video (hankering for a double-bill? Watch this one with Dario Argento's Mother of Tears and its whacky witches in faux-hawks, plether and spandex). Eden and her motley squad of guerilla warriors head into the fray, and some fare better than others… those who don't suffer some pretty depraved onscreen deaths (think: Medieval… cauldrons of boiling oil, beheadings, and slingshots).
If you like vehicles and violence — and vehicular violence — not to mention many, many mashing and manglings by the wicked wheels of our baddies, get yourself revved up for a guilty-pleasure treat. In addition to the roar of engines, there's lots of hand-to-hand combat, breath-stealing chases, explosions, and sneak-attack executions.
The DVD features commentary by Marshall and actors Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Rick Warden and Les Simpson, which lends a lot of voices and perspectives to the remember-when's. It's quite jocular and easygoing, but between the boisterousness, Marshall manages to impart a lot of relevant info on the filmmaking process. There are also several featurettes — laden with spoilers — which, if you adore autos, will ignite your interest (I loved the attention to detail; one of the villain's hotrods has skeletal hands from his victims holding his side-mirrors).
While it's doubtful Doomsday will ever assume the patina of a classic, it's a whole heap of fun and well worth a look or two.
= = =Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson