Critics were not kind to Doomsday when it came out in March and it didn't spend much time in theaters. The main rap against the flick was that it was too derivative, blatantly lifting elements from previous successful genre films. This accusation, by the way, is entirely true. But while originality of concept is always appreciated and to be commended, the lack therefore does not automatically guarantee that the work in question is valueless. I don't care if you string together elements from a thousand previous sources if the result is at least entertaining, and I'm here to say I was entertained as hell by Doomsday.
Count the precedents as I discuss the plot. A horrific virus breaks out in the UK, threatening to destroy humanity's very way of life (28 Days Later). The location of the Hot Zone-- Scotland-- is quarantined behind massive walls and becomes a lawless place where the imprisoned fend for themselves any way they can (Escape from New York). 30 years later, there's another outbreak in London and now the government has reason to believe the key to its cure is among the survivors up north. So a rescue team has to go behind the walls on an extraction mission (that would be Escape from New York again). An overconfident team of soldiers in armored transports are overmatched and trapped in enemy territory (Aliens). The sexy female lead (in this case, Rhona Mitra) must kick major ass and fight against all odds to complete her mission (Ultraviolet, Aeon Flux). The main obstacle is a legion of leather-and-chained punks who ride around on tricked out vehicles (the Road Warrior). At a critical juncture, she is forced to step into a deathmatch arena, and battle to the death with a larger and better armed and armored foe before a stadium of foaming-mouthed spectators (pretty much every movie ever, seems like).
The script is so stupid, it's brilliant. After martial law is declared, a clearly diseased man is discovered among the panicked throngs who are attempting to evacuate. How does the soldier who makes discovery act to maintain law and order? He whips out his machine gun and blasts the poor bastard to mush, spraying everyone in a 20 yard radius with infected blood and guts! When the powers that be decide that the whole crisis is FUBAR, they order the gates on the quarantine zone permanently sealed. One hapless sucker on the wrong side apparently thinks the gates will just spring back open like elevator doors if he just sticks his hand between them before they close, and he promptly loses his arm in gory fashion. One distraught mother convinces some soldiers to take her little daughter away with them in their helicopter-- um, how do they know the little girl isn't a carrier? Especially since she is bleeding from her eye when they take her away with them?
I’m not sure what the theatrical version was like, but the unrated DVD is as violent and gory as it is dopey, with a gleeful level of flowing blood, hacked limbs and decapitations usually reserved for hardcore horror flicks. Not only does a little girl lose her eye, people get cooked and eaten, bunnies explode. Yes, that’s right-- bunnies explode!
Director Neil Marshall keeps the action moving along at all times, which is a big key to its success. If the story makes little to no sense, don’t give the audience time to think about it, just throw another obstacle in our heroes’ path. In lesser hands, this could have been no better than a low-budget straight-to-cable schlockfest. Instead, it’s a slick, fast-moving, great looking, decently acted schlockfest. Mitra makes a great heroine, and Marshall even got Malcolm McDowell and Bob Hoskins to appear in this thing. Also, it’s nice to see the Gimp from Pulp Fiction get some work.
It’s funny, usually the story is the main thing that will make or break a movie for me. I can put up with a lot if there’s a good script at the heart of it and usually the most beautiful film in the world can end up being a dud in my eyes if the story stinks. But in the case of Doomsday, it’s all so over-the-top crazy fun, I just checked my brain at the door and enjoyed the ride. Today, I might just be a little bit dumber person than I was yesterday, but I give Doomsday a 7.