The Clearing Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Crackle Plus

the clearing poster large

Written and directed by David Matalon
2020, 82 minutes, Not Rated
Released on June 4th, 2020

Liam McIntyre as Tom
Aundrea Smith as Mira
Steven Swadling as The Ranger
Sydelle Noel as Naomi

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While we can almost all agree that the opening stage of a zombie apocalypse is one of the most intense settings in horror, it’s also equally difficult to dispute that nearly everything about zombie films has been done to death (pun intended). Whether it’s the feverish and terrifying beginning, the fight for sanity and your soul that comes in the middle, or the “what have we become?” ending stage that’s being depicted, you have to be seriously on your game to make a splash in the ironically overcrowded landscape of the cinema of the walking dead.

True to its name, The Clearing represents an open area to catch your breath and admire the scenery before getting bogged down in a lot of the same tropes and hazards many have faced before.

Tom (Liam McIntyre; Spartacus) is a father with an issue. His daughter, Mira (Aundrea Smith; Zombies), is growing distant from him as she gets older. It’s his fault, really, and his wife, Naomi (Sydelle Noel; Black Panther), tells him so. Tom takes Mira on a camping trip to reconnect, but it’s tough sledding. The ice is thawing, but before it can melt away the zombie apocalypse comes crashing into their rundown RV. Tom and Mira are separated, and soon life is one big fight for survival and reunion.

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It’s a simple premise, and that is a good thing in and of itself. The biggest issue with The Clearing is that it doesn’t do anything that we haven’t seen before (though there are some definite bright spots to be had that I’ll get to). The early stages of the father-daughter interaction, as well as that of Tom and Naomi, are full of conversations and tropes that we’ve heard a thousand times before – Dad is hard on Kid; Dad has to atone; Wife reads him the riot act until he agrees to forgo the weekly poker game; Kid won’t get off her phone, etc., etc. As Tom and Mira settle into each other, so to speak, the relationship does feel much more natural and genuine thanks to some solid acting from both leads. Aundrea Smith is a talented young lady, and Liam McIntyre can play pseudo-macho tough and tender father with equal skill. The issue is more one of bland writing than execution; the acting, directing, and cinematography are on-point. We even get an add-on sketchy park ranger that adds the old “people are more dangerous than the undead” cliché.

The violence and gore levels on the zombie action are a treat, though. There are a couple of occasions of budget-necessary CGI that are a little on the see-through side, but it’s forgivable thanks to raw passion for making a balls-out zombie flick that gives you fast flesh eaters that climb, think around corners, and even throw hands a bit. It’s fun to watch on the horror action side and helps The Clearing to save a lot of face. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a fine-looking film, alternating between sundrenched and waterlogged swampiness.

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You’ll be a little bitter at the wasted opportunity to throw in a little exposition and explore those utterly lovely face worms that reach out from the faces of the undead in a desperately squirmy attempt to infect new hosts. It’s a pulpy, head-exploding touch that lends some originality to an otherwise run of the mill (but well executed) film that even manages to have an opening that rivals the tension of the farmhouse escape scene at the beginning of 28 Weeks Later.

While The Clearing is miles away from being a waste of time, it’s still a fair distance from being a standout zombie apocalypse family drama. The beats are familiar while the gore and action are comfortingly squishy, and that may leave the discerning and educated zombie fan hungering for just a little bit more meat.

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Movie: 3 Star Rating Cover

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Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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