Friend of the World
Dir. Brian Patrick Butler (2020)
A possibly-crazy general helps an amateur filmmaker survive the apocalypse when they both find themselves in a bunker after a catastrophic war.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Choosing to play the whole film in black and white, director Brian Patrick Butler’s film Friend of the World is an artsy exploration of a potential zombie apocalypse after a good old-fashioned regular apocalypse. The bombs have been dropped, and the survivors (what few they may be) now have to contend with mutated monsters who are trying to eat them. It’s all kicked off because of an international relations policy that basically assured the Earth’s destruction. General Gore (Nick Young) has survived, as has young documentary filmmaker Diane Keaton (Alexandra Slade), and they must work together to escape the bunker that has protected them from the destruction outside without running afoul of the aforementioned mutants.
The film has a very small cast, but all the parts within are played fairly well. There’s no noticeable dropoff of it being an indie film, and Young and Slade do a pretty good job of portraying their characters in as realistic a way possible given the circumstances. The film has a super short runtime (more on that in a minute) at just 50 minutes and change, and it also has some really gnarly zombie effects that are actually pretty damn good for the size of the production. The clever use of black and white cinematography hides any sins that would otherwise be apparent, and helps everything look way better than it should have. Even the clearly-CGI effects are not half bad, again aided by the noir-ish feel of the film. The plot is fairly linear, though a bit lacking in explanation and resolution, but it’s an interesting character-driven dramatic film as much as it is a horror.
Where the film does fall flat is in its runtime. The 50 minutes is not really long enough to be a feature and is too long for a short, and even though the film is broken into several acts, it probably could’ve had a decent amount of runtime cut and still had the same effect on the audience. I get that that’s a hard decision for filmmakers to make, but Friend of the World finds itself in a bit of a no-man’s land of being a bit too long to always hold your interest, especially because the resolution of the film is a bit anticlimactic. Perhaps by adding a real ending, it could’ve been pushed to an hour and ten minutes or so, or by removing some of the exposition it could’ve been boiled down into an excellent thirty minute short. As it is, it’s still relatively effective and it’s definitely still a cool little indie movie with some decent effects. It’s got a lot of heart, and you can tell that the artistic chops are there for Butler, who definitely has some talent and will hopefully be given the opportunity to explore it further with some more fully-fleshed out ideas.
Who this movie is for: Indie horror fans, Zombie film lovers, Neo-noir fetishists
Bottom line: While the runtime is a bit too long (or short) to really hit a good stride, there’s a lot to love about the film. What effects are present are really well done, and what’s not well-done is very effectively hidden by some creative choices from director Butler. The acting is pretty decent, the story is interesting, and the dynamic between the two wildly different leads is compelling. I’ll be looking forward to checking out Butler’s next film, and this one is a pretty good watch if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to checking out another indie horror