Doomsday, however you cut it, is a load of old hairy sphericals. It makes no sense whatsoever. Its mission statement appears to be “if it can be blown up or run over, it will be blown up or run over. Possibly both”. Dialogue isn't spoken as much as spat. It doesn't require the suspension of disbelief as much as its surgical removal. It contains holes that you could drive several trains through, not just the usual one.
And you know what? It doesn't matter. I scribbled down two A4 pages of faults in the first 45 minutes before I realised that I'd missed the point because, in spite of the faults, the ludicrous behaviour and the excesses — indeed, probably because of the faults, the ludicrous behaviour and the excesses — Doomsday is about as much fun as you can have in a cinema without impinging public decency laws.
Plot-wise, it's 28 Days Later meets Escape From New York (with a hint of every video game from the last 10 years with a dash of, er, Camelot). In 2008, a virus hits Glasgow. Called Reaper, it leads to festering boils, running sores, unstoppable internal bleeding and the complete meltdown of all the important organs. There's no cure, it's spreading like wildfire and the Government has no choice but to close Scotland down. A 30ft steel fence is built across Hadrian's Wall, the coastline is mined, the airspace is declared a no-fly zone and everybody north of the border is left to die a horrible death.
Flash forward 25 years... and Reaper has returned. In London. An overcrowded, falling-apart-at-the-seams London full of ghettos and a huge class divide. The offical verdict? “This town's going tits up in no short order” so the PM (Siddig) is panicking, the true mysterious power behind the office Canaris (O'Hara) is rubbing his hands with glee and the chief of security Nelson (Hoskins) is let in on a little secret. Satellite photos of Glasgow show that there are survivors. Survivors mean that Kane (McDowell), the Scottish doctor working on a cure, must have found one. All Nelson has to do is send his best people into Scotland to bring it back.
The team, lead by hard-as-nails Eden Sinclair (the ballsy Mitra) is dispatched but things go very wrong very quickly. What they discover is a horde of mohicaned Glaswegian psychos in bondage gear in a state of total anarchy: The Hills Have Ayes, if you like. Oh and they're cannibals. Also, instead of useful skills like engineering and roadsweeping and the like, the psychos have spent the last 25 years perfecting chainsaw-juggling, creative headshaving and face painting; see what happens when you quarantine Scotland during Festival time?
Marshall then throws civil war into the mix – the mohicaned lot are rebelling against Kane who now rules over other survivors in a big castle, where they wear medieval costume because, as any fule kno, when civilisation breaks down, the only two options are Thunderdome or Narnia. You also get men in armour, gladiatorial combat, the single greatest deadpan use of the word “bollocks” in cinema history, a warehouse full of useful stuff like a Bentley... As I say, hairy sphericals but who cares?
Where 28 Days / Weeks Later took themselves so seriously even as the plot and logic fatally unravelled, Marshall and team have clearly decided “sod it” and have tried to get away with anything they can think of. It's testament to Marshall's undoubted skills as a director that they get away with pretty much all of it. The sillier it gets, the more enjoyable it becomes. The camper it gets — the climactic car chase is played out to the thumping sounds of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, for chrissakes — the more irresistible it is.
Because of the holes and the silliness, it's impossible to justify more than three stars for Doomsday. But I'll be very surprised if you see a more enjoyable three star movie this decade.
SECOND OPINION | Craig McPherson **½ There came a point during a spectacular car chase sequence in Doomsday, when the soundtrack shifted from perfectly matched orchestral staccato to Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Two Tribes, which caused me to wince. Immediately I was removed from what had been a gripping ode to action glory and snapped into the reality of wondering how much of this film’s budget went up people’s noses, as opposed to being put on film.
Such is the fate of Neil Marshall’s post-apocalyptic big budget B-movie that seems torn between castigating itself and entertaining the audience. Marshall, who has risen to reverential status in the oft maligned horror genre for his critically acclaimed Dog Soldiers and The Descent, makes no pretence that he’s created a work of high art here. He openly admits that the concept of the film came to him in two stages, after visiting Hadrian’s Wall that divides Scotland from England and being struck with the thought of what if such a thing were erected today, coupled with a dream that involved a woman fighting a knight in armour. From there it was only a matter of time before a patchwork quilt of ideas cobbled from other movies began to be thrown against the wall to see which stuck.
The end result is a movie that looks and feels like the Highland fling version of Mad Max: The Road Warrior, with Glasgow having fallen into the hands of the mohawked Sol (Conway), the psychopathic leader of a band of tattooed, punked-out Braveheart cannibals, and the medieval Camelot-like society that has taken root in a Highland castle at the court of Kane (McDowell) a government scientist originally working to find a cure for the Reaper virus but abandoned behind the wall when the country was sealed off.
From this mix the audience is treated to copious quantities of people being cut down by bullets, knives, axes, maces, grenades, kung fu, impalings and car wreaks. And while it’s easy to see why most critics will savage this movie, after all, it practically begs for it, the best advice I can give is this; if you’re looking for some terrific action that has been created by good old fashion stunt-folks instead of the ever pervasive CGI, and aren’t looking for anything deep except some fun while you munch on your popcorn, then I think you’ll find the spirit in which Marshall made this movie.
• Doomsday at IMDb