Originally released in 2008 under the title Solos (Spanish for “singles’), Descendants is a post-apocalyptic horror movie that incorporates facets of the zombie genre with more fantastical elements, making it a unique entry in both the post-apocalyptic and zombie genres. Made in Chili by writer-director Jorge Olguin (with co-writer Carolina Garcia), Descendants may turn off many genre fans because of its twist ending, which brings to the forefront elements right out of left field. However, given a chance, the film should catch on with more open-minded fans.
Clocking in at less than 90 minutes, Descendants tells the story of young Camille (Camille Lynch), who was born during a world-wide airborne plague that is systematically infecting adults with a blood-driven virus that turns them into flesh-eating zombies. It turns out that Camille was born with strange striations on her neck (three on each side—hint, hint). Although these “cuts” are constantly bleeding, they also have made Camille immune to the virus. Moreover, the infected are not interested in her, perhaps because she is not truly human. Her mother (Karina Pizarro) believes the immunity has been granted to her child by God.
The story consists of two parts. Part one takes place in real time, where Camille evades soldiers whose orders are to kill anybody not wearing breathing apparatus. Although not a zombie, she is considered infected. Part two of the story is told in flashbacks, where Camille and her mother are taken to a hospital where medical personnel attempt to discover why Camille is immune.
Tormented by the past, Camille falls in with a group of other young kids, some of whom share her marks and immunity. However, the soldiers are unrelenting, making the band of young ones run for their lives as they are chased by soldiers on the ground and by aircraft and helicopters by air.
Camille’s goal is simple: get to the sea, where she believes her dead mother is waiting for her aboard a magic boat. Protecting the boat is a giant purple octopus. Could this fantastical story actually come true? As the final reel rolls out, viewers will be stunned by the movie’s ending.
Be sure to stick around after the credits, as there is a tagged-on sequence that explains how the zombie apocalypse got started. It is during this sequence that writer-director Jorge Olguin mixes elements of Chilean myth with modern sensibilities.
Although as a whole Descendants left me feeling a bit hollow and unsatisfied, the bulk of the movie worked well. The storytelling arc worked through flashbacks was relatively effective, if not a bit redundant, and the overall tale of children who do not fear the walking dead but rather the living is an effective reversal on the genre. Sadly, the movie’s twist was simply too much of a stretch, as there was little in the story itself to explain Camille’s final transformation and the climax’s odd visuals.
Descendants applies an interesting color palate, uses conventional found-footage techniques (shaky camera, blood on the camera, and so on), and uses motion and visuals rather than dialogue to get some points across. Such techniques may present problems for casual movie watchers, as it does take concentration to unravel some of the mystery. As stated before, the movie ultimately fails because there simply is not enough information provided during the movie to justify its ending. Another problem is the film’s reliance on CGI, which is acceptable due to limited budget, although it is obvious in its execution.
Descendants may be of interest to those looking for something different in the zombie genre or the post-apocalyptic genre. However, be aware that the film’s ending will leave you scratching your head—and indeed may not make many of you very happy.