Watching his fellow students arrive reluctantly at school one day 15 Year Old Sam Toller was hit by a sudden thought; ‘What if they all turned into Zombies?’, not the dead eyed, late night Call of Duty addicts suffering from Caffeine withdrawal that his teachers had to deal with, but the flesh eating living dead popularised by George Romero. It was a thought which lead him eight months later to ‘We Are What We Eat’ an uneven, but generally impressive 10 minute short film on which he acted as writer-director. The influence of existing features is clearly evident in the film, though Toller brings a few nice touches of his own in his debut.
Shot over the course of just Two Days, the film juggles an overly familiar storyline with a novel setting-Secondary School, and a subtle social commentary about the mechanics of the British Education system, but still finds time for a few metaphoric cutaways and an amusing homage to Shaun of the Dead (which lifted said reference in turn from the Dawn of the Dead franchise) despite its slightly less than 11 minutes running time.
Karl and girlfriend Nicole are typically blasé Secondary school students; arriving late for class (with different excuses) they get little sympathy from their Teacher (A delightfully grumpy Chris Bearne) and make plans to meet up after lesson. Later Karl falls ill and attacks Nicole, she escapes, the next morning finds things between them back to normal…although normality is about to be shattered in Bloody fashion…
Despite the untypical characters and setting, at first it is entirely possible to see where the story is heading, and for this reason alone the film may endear itself to, or put off viewers (yes, shuffling zombies and ‘edible’ corpses both make appearances). The two halves of the film-before and after the Zombies arrival don’t quite gel, an atmospheric first half giving way to a more generic ‘chase’ sequence (though both halves entertain), and the rather sudden, open-ended resolution may not be to all tastes.
Perhaps realising this Toller soon introduces an elliptical editing approach; key information is often only hinted at, and bold jump cuts keep the pace fast, it certainly makes the storyline more interesting, though some viewers may find it an annoying or confusing decision.
Whatever it’s other flaws the story is well structured with few ‘dramatic gaps’ and no obvious plot holes, and it is clear Toller was having a ball making the film.
The cinematography, editing and framing is first-rate, creative camerawork and assured direction keep the film visually interesting and make up for the lulls in the story (although a couple of shots come across as random or self-indulgent) – an tracking shot down a corpse strewn corridor, and a point of view death scene stay in the mind as much as they as impress. A low key but appropriate musical score makes a welcome appearance, and In contrast to many other short films isn’t overused, although other issues with the sound levels (the dialogue is too quiet) are a recurring, and annoyingly obvious diversion from the impressive visuals.
Despite the limited budget and production schedule, Toller was able to secure the services of several Industry professionals; Make Up artist Alex Whelpton and actress Lucy Joyce (Nicole), the effort paid off. The Makeup and practical effects are very good and convincing (although occasionally the illusion is broken by inappropriate close ups). Joyce makes a very likeable protagonist and anchors the film with a nicely modulated performance, although some of her dialogue delivery is a little wooden (as is her reaction to finding her classmates dead…), it is a small gripe and Joyce’s chemistry with Zak Ozturk (Karl-Ozturk’s acting debut) is immediately noticeable on screen, other performances in the film are a bit hit and miss.
Many of the issues listed above can be put down to the inexperience of its director or the constraints of the limited budget and production schedule, none are entirely fatal to the film, and some won’t matter to all viewers. Whilst ‘We Are What We Eat’ ultimately offers little not seen before, for fans of the genre or curious readers it should prove an entertaining viewing experience.
Visually the film is great, the effects and music work very well and Toller’s sheer daring should be applauded, but the predictable plot and variable performances (surprising considering Toller himself is an actor) prove problematic. In conclusion ‘We Are What we Eat’ is an inconsistent but generally compelling film which serves as perfect inspiration for young filmmakers nationwide.
A bright future for Mr Toller beckons, and if he gets access to increased funds, and more time it is a future, I for one would be intrigued to watch unfold.
The complete film can be viewed at this address: