The Danish zombie drama What We Become is more Fear The Walking Dead than The Walking Dead, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing
From the very beginning, it’s obvious that What We Become is reaching for quality and wants to set the tone with an emphasis on human nature. To be more precise: How do we react, when an outside threat hits us in the comfort of our home, with our family in immediate danger. The Danish title “Sorgenfri” is simply the name of the city where it takes place. Incidentally, the name of the city directly translates to “SorrowFree” which is the direct opposite of what the characters in What We Become are experiencing.
Also, the international title is better at describing what’s at the heart of this movie. You won’t even see a zombie for a long time, because just like it’s the case with The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead the true danger is surviving other people. It won’t take long for anyone to realize that zombies want to kill you (or certainly eat you), but human beings are much harder to read; Friend or Foe? You never know! Yeah, I’m keeping in that little zombie rhyme, which should be the go-to proverb for any character in a zombie movie.
Speaking of the tone in this film, it is much more Fear The Walking Dead (FTWD) than The Walking Dead, but this isn’t a bad thing. After all, the story of What We Become is about the beginning of a zombie apocalypse and that means everyone needs to figure out what’s going on. And just like we’ve seen it in FTWD, the government and army doesn’t handle things too well. They try to contain the outbreak, but in doing so, they refuse to communicate anything to the citizens living through this.
This brings me to a pet peeve of mine. In any movie, taking place in the present, I loathe when people turn to TV (or in this case the radio, like we’re in the 1940s) for information. Especially when they’re still using their computers to play games, and smartphones to communicate with each other. Come on, who in their right mind wouldn’t turn to the Internet for information? Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, you name it… no major event (good or bad) takes place these years, without it being all over the Internet. If they want us to accept this, then they need to place the story at least before 2005. Okay, pet peeve rant over!
The strength of What We Become is found on two fronts: The acting and the sound. First things first, the acting is superb. Obviously, being Danish, I know these actors from lots of movies and TV shows, but this is definitely something they should be proud of. Especially the performance from Mille Dinesen (title character on the TV show Rita), who plays the mom, is absolutely amazing and goes all out from the first shot of the movie. When you see her at the end of her rope – yes, we begin at the end, just to make sure the audience knows there’s no hope really – you’ll know this isn’t a pretty movie, but a dramatic and realistic look at human nature.
And then on to the sound. In horror, sound is always an intensely important way of setting the tone and getting ready for the major scares. In What We Become there’s an annoying buzzing sound from the beginning, which you quickly realize is the sound of flies. A dead (pun intended) give away that death and decay is imminent. Also, the 80s synthesizer – which is heavily used these years in horror and action – is working like a charm in this movie.
Bo Mikkelsen wrote and directed What We Become as his feature film debut, after having made several short films. He should absolutely be proud of this movie, which is the best Danish horror movie in many years. Sweden and Norway have been having quite a bit more success with horror, and all Scandinavian movies in later years have been dubbed “New Nordic”. In part to group them more together for foreign markets, since these movies tend to do well on a global level.
What We Become isn’t without issues. My main issue is the need for a teenage love story, which is grossly misplaced in the way it’s portrayed (and when!), but the actors are good and I’m sure it’s important to attract a larger audience, so I’m willing to let that slide for the greater good.
Important notice: Unless they change the title intro and outro for the international audience, you need to be aware that there’s some intense flashing lights at these points of the film.
What We Become will be available for digital streaming via most VOD outlets on May 13, 2016. Yep, that’s a Friday the 13th premiere for the Danish zombie thriller, which was first released in limited theatrical release in Denmark on March 31, 2016.
Director: Bo Mikkelsen
Writer: Bo Mikkelsen
Cast: Troels Lyby, Mille Dinesen, Mikael Birkkjær
A family of four is quarantined in their home as a virulent strand of the flu spreads into town and they are forced to the extreme to escape alive