Toronto After Dark 2007: Automaton Transfusion review

Andrew Mack, Contributing Writer

It doesn’t happen every day at school. One of the students has bitten his teacher in a ferocious and bloody attack. Three young friends, led by Chris (Garret Jones), embark on a road trip for a concert in town. Something’s not right though. The highway is empty when it should be crammed with rush hour traffic. When they arrive they discover a quiet and seemingly empty city center. But it’s not empty. Something is out there. Chris and his friends quickly discover that the city is very full- full of savage zombies out for blood. The three friends then fight off attacks from the zombie hordes and try to return home and rescue any surviving loved ones.

Automaton Transfusion, the debut film from director Steven C. Miller crackles with a relentless and bloodthirsty energy that leaves the viewer almost as exhausted as his cast is with each successive attack. Transfusion is already being compared heavily with its greater forefather 28 Days Later. This cannot be helped nor does it help this movie because while it has its own ferocious energy and greater bloodlust it is clear that Miller’s film is just about the kills and the blood. Neither does it come across as fresh and invigorating as its predecessor. But oh boy, are some of the kills he created some of the most innovative kills I have ever seen. I want to tell you so badly about the money shots but you’re just going to have to trust me that there are at least two in Transfusion that are going to rock your socks!

Transfusion builds its tension well when its characters feel the loneliness and isolation leading up to and after the zombie attacks. It doesn’t do so great when it projects jump scenes. And in an interesting move Miller chose to focus on victims hands, on at least three occasions that I remember, as they meet their fate. I thought it interesting that Miller should choose to do so, portraying either that loss of hope that the victims feel after they have given up hope of surviving, or, they’re fighting to the last breath, trying to reach for anything that may free them from certain death. And did anyone else notice that most of the wounds were face wounds and on the right cheek? Or was that just me?

Sadly, Transfusion loses all its momentum in the final act when some of our friends are rescued and we enter a dull moment of exposition. I didn’t think that Miller’s plot needed any sort of explanation but in doing so he dangled any innovation he had shown to that point and nearly sacrificed it to mundane and unoriginal plot devices and poor scripting. It was as if Miller felt he needed to explain himself, to qualify his choices, to give them merit. I better pre-empt any protest any disagreements and explain why I chose to do it this way. Bah! It was good until he started explaining himself. The cause of the zombie crisis was not surprising and also reminded me of plots of 1950s science fiction films. Oh humanity and its cruel fate!

Transfusion stands out in a couple areas but in the end it isn’t a truly special zombie movie. In the end it’s not going to set any benchmarks and a couple innovative kills are not enough to make it iconic. Dimension Extreme has picked it up so look out for it. And Miller did plan for it to be the first in a trilogy of zombie films. If the zombie film movement doesn’t collapse under its own dead weight we’ll see if it lasts past two. I figure its going to undergo a name change as well. Or, just do what I did and drop the Automaton. Automaton Transfusion is not going to sell tickets. It’s a good name but I think Transfusion is good on its own [you can have that one Miller]. After all, it is in the blood.

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