Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. In modern Britain, the streets of London are gripped by a horrific virus which tears apart its citizens, turning them into bloodthirsty zombies. So far, so 28 Days Later. A team of hardened camo-wearing squaddies (hello, The Girl With All the Gifts) are teamed with entering the quarantine zone (Doomsday, and countless more) to rescue a scientist trapped within. No great originality, then, but there should be enough going on under the skin to prevent this one from being completely DOA… right?
Since the subgenre’s early noughties resurrection with the Dawn of the Dead remake, Shaun of the Dead and, of late, The Walking Dead and its spin-offs, zombie cinema has barely been allowed a moment’s down-time. The subgenre is now at danger of suffocation with countless low-budget and independent zombie horror films hitting the shelves and streaming sites every single day, making it an impossible task to keep up with the latest releases and developments. And the hordes just keep on growing.
Chee Keong Cheung’s Redcon-1, at least, looks the part, bringing a British zombie apocalypse on a massive scale, utilizing (the already pretty dystopian) city streets to deliver some genuinely impressive balls-to-the-wall grunts vs zombies action. It’s like 28 Days Later meets The Raid, minus Danny Boyle’s style and the latter’s technical finesse. In fact, this is some of the best action seen in a zombie film since Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, with lashings of gore and bone-crunching violence.
The problem is, it just goes on and on, and by the half hour mark it’s already exhausting. Which is a pretty big problem, when your film is almost 2 hours long. In spite of the filmmakers’ obvious passion and can-do attitude, there’s just too much going on, from the weird romance angle, to the ‘smart’ zombies and gangs of Purge-lite thugs storming the streets. Ultimately, Redcon-1 becomes a tough slog, filled with cookie-cutter tough guy characters and snarling hardmen.
But it’s hard to fault a film for trying to do too much, especially when it does so much of it so well. Visually, it’s astonishing what has been achieved on such a low budget (which allows some leeway for the occasional duff shot and dodgy performance), and its raw ingenuity is on display throughout, taking on hundreds of extras to play zombies on the streets of a plausibly post-apocalyptic Britain.
Redcon-1 may not hit all of the targets it aims for, but there’s so much passion and balls behind its lunge, that this one easily stands out from the rest of the mindless horde.