31 Days Horror, Day 7: Cargo

“Cargo” is a 2018 Australian post-apocalyptic horror film written by Yolanda Ramke who also co-directs the film with Ben Howling.  The film follows an infected father who has just hours left before he becomes undead, and his desperate attempt to find for a new home for his infant child. The plot of “Cargo” may seem familiar to you as the film is based on Ramke and Howling’s short film also entitled “Cargo“. This feature-length version of the film features Martin Freeman, dutifully going on with his journey to protect the most precious thing in his world as around them civilization collapses. Picture “The Road” crossed with AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and you essentially get “Cargo”. However, this isn’t to say that the film isn’t unique in its own right, this is simply passing comment on how the film plays homage to the post-apocalyptic/Zombie story.

The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic Australian outback which has been ravaged by an untreatable and highly infectious disease. If you catch this disease then you have 48-hours until you turn into one of the walking dead, and people are supplied with a ‘FitBit’ with a timer that reads “48:00” that slowly ticks down to their transformation. All law and order have broken down and society, as we know, has collapsed. We follow Andy (Freeman), his wife Kay (Susie Porter) and their baby daughter who have escaped on a houseboat on the River Murray in South Australia. The small family makes their way up the river on the search for sanctuary.  They are running low on food, but they dare not venture onto dry land as it would be a fate worse than death.

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Circumstances leave Any on borrowed time,  and he becomes increasingly desperate to find a foster-carer for baby Rose, a glimmer of hope arrives when a young Aboriginal girl (Simone Landers) who is trying to save her own father comes on the scene. As well as the slow-roaming but relentless zombies who live by the well-established rules of the genre, there are occasional fellow survivors like the unhinged Vic (Anthony Hayes) and a fierce resistance being waged by Aboriginal people who have returned to the bush and formed safe communities. We are told that the aboriginal tribes saw this event coming, and they are prepared, unlike the rest of us. A nice comment on how indigenous people have been ignored and shunned by others.

“With a tense atmosphere, a solid plot, breathtaking cinematography and a great performance from Martin Freeman and Simone Landers, “Cargo” is a highly enjoyable film.”

The cinematography by Geoffrey Simpson is simply breathtaking, as Simpson manages to capture the gorgeous landscape, which is a spectacular mixture of red dirt scrub smoldering with spitfire, the broad river with its cliff banks and majestic rocks and the mountains of the Flinders Ranges. The use of drone shots helps to reinforce the vast isolation that our main characters find themselves a part of. The landscape sprawls on for miles upon miles, signifying that in the outback no-one will hear you scream and come to your rescue.  Martin Freeman delivers a touching performance and watching his slow demise into one of the undead will bring a tear to your eye. However, he is easily shadowed by Simone Landers’ extraordinary performance as the young aboriginal girl Thoomi. Landers is truly wonderful to watch and has so much maturity despite being so young.

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The theme of a deadly disease brings to mind the Ebola and swine flu outbreaks, although the main theme, however, is of race relations and respect for the ancient cultures of Australia’s first people. The plot plays with reversals of our history to this point, but despite its intelligence and sincerity, it always maintains the suspense of the horror genre. “Cargo” also addresses the idea of responsibility being forced upon the younger generations, in the way that Andy tries to pass on his responsibility as a parent onto a young girl. There’s much to unpack here and the directors manage to expand on their short film without ever losing the impact that their short had on audiences.

With a tense atmosphere, a solid plot, breathtaking cinematography and a great performance from Martin Freeman and Simone Landers, “Cargo” is a highly enjoyable film, and one worth seeking out on Netflix. It is a film for those who like their horror film a little more high-brow and more character-driven. “Cargo” may not be the film for hard-core zombie fans who enjoy rampant blood and gore, but with so many zombie films relying so much on gory special effects nowadays, “Cargo” made for a refreshing change.

Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

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