‘Stay home. Lock up. Don’t breathe.’
What We Become is a 2015 Danish horror feature film written and directed by Bo Mikkelsen and produced by Meta Film. The original title is Sorgenfri.
Mille Dinesen, Troels Lyby, Ole Dupont, Mikael Birkkjær, Marie Hammer Boda, Therese Damsgaard, Benjamin Engell, Rita Angela, Diana Axelsen, Ella Solgaard.
A family of four is quarantined in their home as a virulent strand of the flu spreads into town and they are forced to the extreme to escape alive…
What We Become is a Danish zombie horror film with an American accent; in the role of obligatory dysfunctional group we have the typical generic modern movie family made up of Troels Lyby as the ineffective, happy-go-lucky family patriarch, Dino, and his wife, Pernille (Mille Dinesen), who is more than willing to let him know exactly how ineffective he actually is; Benjamin Engell stars as Gustav, their churlish, teenage son with the temperament of an unlicked cub and the libido of Bob Crane; Ella Solgaard appears peripherally as Maj, the exaggeratedly innocent youngest child who’s attention is squarely focused on her pet rabbit, Ninus; and Marie Hammer Boda, who struts sluggishly through her scenes as Sonja, the daughter of their next door neighbours and the focus of Gustav’s manufactured, and distinctly artificial, obsession.
The real meat of the narrative starts off right after the opening credits with compulsory shots of small town domesticity right out of a middle-American Norman Rockwell painting, surprisingly enough; predictably, these scenes are replaced relatively quickly with moments of mounting mild discord within the family and the local community which are supposed to show the cracks beneath the sedate veneer of this quiet, unassuming neighbourhood. Now, Gustav is rebellious, mouthy, and a peeping Tom rather than simply being a love-sick teenager; Pernille is more of a clinging, buttock-and-tongue nag than a companion and partner in marriage; Dino is a distant and inattentive father; Sonja is the sly little coquette next door who’s primary purpose is to bring tension into Gustav’s life; and Casper (Mikael Birkkjaer), the neighbourhoods resident he-man hunter is there to emphasise Dino’s inadequacies.
Bo Mikkelsen’s script is passible for this kind of film; although of Danish origin, it follows the typical story arcs of most contemporary Hollywood horror movies, thus delivering nothing original or surprising. Obviously, he’s seen, and been inspired by, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and any number of other low budget direct to video/streaming endeavours from the last handful of years. What he lacks in freshness and imagination, he makes up for in his direction; he does a commendable job of keeping the story relatively realistic and interesting; his command of profluence is solid, and he’s able to pull out believable performances from the actors, even from little Ella Solgaard as the supremely innocent Maj; unfortunately, he accentuates her lambishness to the point of heavily signalling her experiences later on in the film.
Although not inspired or groundbreaking, the acting by everyone involved is sufficient and, especially in the cases of Troels Lyby, Mille Dinesen, and Mikael Birkkjaer, at times above the standard called for in horror films. Troels is very nicely laid-back, empathetic, and compassionate, something not often seen in end-of-the-world scenarios; Mille is at turns warm, vaguely waspish, and completely broken; Mikael’s Casper adds a softer edge and a gentle nudging to what would be an otherwise hyper-masculine machismo in an equivalent American zombie apocalypse film. Benjamin Engell’s Gustav is a direct lift right out of Hollywood’s mediocre stock character bag of cheap tricks, which is primarily a shortcoming of the script. And Marie Boda’s Sonja is pretty much a gratuitous somnambulist throughout the film. Still, the acting follows through on what’s needed to keep things buoyant.
Strangely enough, while being a relatively new film, it actually feels rather old hat. Pulling on strings from numerous other films, which in turn, pulled on strings from even older and better films, this one creaks quite a bit. The viewer can see everything coming from a mile away and isn’t even remotely surprised by the fizzle of an ending which Mikkelsen apparently thought would be a real shocker to the horror world; that couldn’t be further from the truth, especially if you’ve seen the original Night of the Living Dead or its already numerous bromidic rip-offs.
And, really, who hasn’t by this time? Even sweet, old grandmothers have already seen that thing without flinching; despite being a gritty classic, by today’s youth-obsessed standards, Night of the Living Dead is considered little more than a cosy little promenade through moth-eaten indie filmmaking history, shamefully enough. Watch What We Become if you’re looking for a pleasant, yet predictable, experience, but don’t be surprised when you’re not surprised.
Ben Spurling, MOVIES and MANIA
“What We Become is surprisingly compelling, not necessarily because of what happens but because of how it happens. It’s the kind of noir-ish horror that is rapidly becoming extinct.” Screen Anarchy
“The zombie bit of What We Become is really confined to the last twenty minutes or so. Prior to that, it does a very good job of building characters, developing a sense of insidious unease, and making what is happening feel very realistic indeed.” House of Mortal Cinema
“As the film peaks, its derivative, clichéd nature falls away and it becomes its own thing. Your enjoyment level will be determined by if you’re patient enough with it to get to that point.” RogerEbert.com
“Ultimately, this feels like an attempt to prove that Denmark can do zombie horror as well as anyone else. Apparently they can: this is a workable, bland, cinematic experience. What’s lacking is ambition and originality – if you’ve seen a handful of zombie films in the last decade or so, then you’ve already seen What We Become.” We Got This Covered
“The practical effects we do get are decent at the most but the film completely skips on the kills one associated with zombie flicks. Overall, What We Become is a fairly entertain zombie film. It does not offer up anything new or special but still entertains…” Horror Society
” …stingy with its monsters until very close to the end, when we see that they’re neither George Romero-grade slow shufflers nor Danny Boyle’s amphetamine-fueled predators; they move just quickly enough to ruin the neighborhood. Effects work is quite good once we get to see it, and the action finally hits its stride…” The Hollywood Reporter
The film was released in Northern America on all formats by IFC Midnight on October 18, 2016. A British Soda Pictures DVD was released on 31 December 2016.