Railway Children Movie Review
Written by Pete Ferox
Released by October Eleven Pictures
Written and directed by Jason Figgis
2012, 100 minutes, Not Rated
Railway Children is low budget indie/horror flick from Ireland, written and directed by relative newcomer Jason Figgis. It is fortunately not a remake of the annoyingly schmaltzy 1970’s movie starring Jenny Agutter, but gets its name because the two main characters of the film carry a copy of the original The Railway Children novel by Edith Nesbit at all times to read for comfort. Luckily by removing 'The' from the title the makers will surely avoid any confusion this could cause.
The story is laid out in the opening few minutes of the film with a televised newsreel providing a rather clunky bit of exposition. It informs of a virus spreading throughout the population, causing people to exhibit extreme violence and aggressive behaviour before inevitable death. However, for some reason this only seems to be affecting adults. As the young girl in the kitchen is listening to all this she looks up to see dad acting a little weird in the garden...
Great set up for a gritty, tense mix of 28 Days Later and Battle Royale style mayhem and carnage isn’t it? Well, that’s not what this film wants to be. Instead we follow the female protagonists Evie (Catherine Wrigglesworth – charming enough in the lead role) and her sister Fran (Emily Forster – solid and not too annoying child actress) nine months after the virus began and the threat of being eviscerated by a rampaging carrier is no longer a worry. What is of concern is the increasingly desperate search for food and the motives of a gang of teenagers they happen to come across on their travels.
So, this is Lord of the Flies then? No. Actually it’s unfortunately much closer to obscure apocalyptic Australian TV show The Tribe, in which a group of boring sanctimonious teens have tedious conversations in a series of unfurnished and poorly decorated rooms – with a hint of cannibalism thrown in randomly for a bit of shock value (unfortunately nowhere near enough to merit attention from gore hounds).
There are a number of issues that hindered my enjoyment of this film. There are too many pointless characters that get introduced in a way suggesting they may have some kind of agenda, but then nothing happens. Various interesting ideas are raised but never explored. The concept of “show, don’t tell” is something that is completely ignored throughout, as almost every scene consists of characters doing long, expositional monologues to each other. It is badly paced and the end of the movie makes no real sense.
It’s all a real pity that this film ends up being so irredeemably dull, as there are also some very good things to talk about. It explores themes of domestic violence and dementia in an interesting and challenging way (albeit way too briefly). When it is used, the Irish countryside makes a marvellous apocalyptic landscape. Some of the acting is great, with particular note going to Dylan Jennings as intense Simon and Darren Travers as Cass’ Dad – who steals the show for me in what is easily the best scene in the movie as he succumbs to the virus at the dinner table. I also love the “Fuck off!” kid.
Focusing on the indie side of things over the horror elements would not be an issue at all if it were handled better, and I do genuinely think this director has a lot more to offer while appreciating some of my reservations about the film probably come down to budget considerations. Unfortunately this does not mean I can forgive the movie for its slack pace and uninteresting characters. The apocalypse has never been so dull.
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