Director Carolina Hellsgård wears her heart on her sleeve with “Ever After,” a movie that’s mired in the influence of femininity and women and offers up a lot of metaphysical ideas about mother Earth, nature, and our state of being. Although “Ever After” has been marketed as a zombie movie, the zombie element is mostly a background dressing for something more meditative and complex. While I adapted to what screenwriter Olivia Vieweg was leading us in to after the first half hour, “Ever After” still manages to be a mixed bag and doesn’t quite re-invent the wheel.
Two years after zombies have overrun Earth, only two citadels of civilization remain in the East German towns of Weimar and Jena. In Weimar, newly infected zombies are shot on site without mercy. The Jena authorities take a more humane approach by trying to find a cure for plague victims. Vivi and Eva, in search of a more humane world are stranded in the no-mans land of the Black Forest where they have to rely on each other and nature in order to survive. But their survival has also unleashed mental demons from their past that they must confront.
One of the appeals of “Ever After” is the absolutely stunning photography that drapes what is the end of the world. All life has been wiped out, and yet, Carolina Hellsgård fills much of the screen with so much amazing landscapes and open scenery that makes the world after humanity seem shockingly inviting. “Ever After” is about the female energy and how the entirety of the female portion of the world has managed to react and respond to the walking dead, and the end of all life. It’s not to say that “Ever After” won’t please horror fans, as there are some genuinely good scenes of zombie carnage and foot chases. “Ever After” is just a lot more about the quiet after the end, and how the world basically would keep spinning and rebuilding itself whether we want it to or not. Writer Vieweg explores the ideas of a vengeful mother nature and how perhaps the zombie virus we view is some kind of retaliation for the way humanity has altered the world.
The film thrives on being a simple and subtle bit of survival horror drama, but sadly sags right down the middle. The more “Ever After” unfolds the more cryptic and ambiguous it becomes, delving in to character Vivi’s mental state. There’s a long conversation between her and a mysterious gardener with vines growing from her face as well as what I presume was a symbolic moment involving Eva buried underground. I was never sure why this meandering from the narrative was at all important, but it dropped the film’s momentum to a halt. Nothing it really salvaged with a final scene that’s admirably left to interpretation, but was wholly unsatisfying. Vieweg obviously had nowhere left to go and opted for merely ending the whole shebang without much preamble. “Ever After” is a solid, if flawed, horror drama with a heavy emphasis on the dramatic and art house portion. If you’re up for something completely different, you’ll enjoy this.