What We Become

The standard for first time feature length directors has been the horror genre for a long time now. Bo Mikkelsen follows on in this tradition with a tale concerning a deadly virus making changes to the population of a small town in Denmark.

In the leafy suburb of Sorgenfri life is tranquil and peaceful. It’s the sort of place where nothing much happens. This proves to be boring for Gustav (Benjamin Engell). He is sick with the lack of action and the fact that his parents are concentrating their efforts on their pre-teen daughter. When a new family moves in across the road he is immediately taken with their teenage daughter Sonja (Marie Hammer Boda). As he is showing her around they come across the ripped up corpse of a deer in the local woods. Meanwhile, reports of a mysterious and very virulent flu-like virus are emerging. When the authorities impose a curfew and then force people to stay in their homes it becomes apparent that the virus may be something far more serious.

You won’t be surprised by much that happens in What We Become. It follows a fairly familiar route to tell the story of a zombie outbreak. Where it differs is in its approach to the audience’s exposure to the actual horrors. In a bold move for a film that only runs for eighty minutes we don’t actually see any of the undead until the fifty minute mark. It works well as it allows the tension to build up in a very natural way without any of the usual jump scares that we are subjected to in most contemporary horror films.

As well as the pacing, the way the story is related aids the film in keeping the interest up. The viewer is given access to the same information as the main cast. We see everything through their eyes. We learn something as they do. This allows there to be a sense of mystery and dread about what is going on. It is a nice change to some other films in the same genre which treats the audience in a slightly different way.

The main cast, especially the parents, will be familiar to anyone who has had a passing interest in Danish film and TV drama over the last few years. The characters are very well developed in the opening exchanges giving the audience the basis of how the drama unfolds and how some of the protagonists behave later on. Horror films are littered with examples of eccentric behaviour and strange decisions that can only be there for plot reasons. Here, at least, we get a bit of an understanding of why things happen as they do.

John McArthur
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