(Howling & Ramke, 2018)

Based on the viral short film, Cargo is yet another competent Netflix horror entry that neither truly wows nor disappoints. Led by a controlled performance from Martin Freeman, the film takes a human approach to the zombie apocalypse, focusing on characters’ relationships with the living rather than their fear of the dead.

Cargo is directed by Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling, the creators of the original short which has amassed 14 million views on YouTube since 2013. This feature-length iteration follows Andy and Kay, a married couple traveling by houseboat in the serpentine rivers of the Australian outback with their baby, Rosie. But when Kay “turns” from the virus and bites Andy, he must travel on foot through the outback in search of someone to watch his daughter after his death. With only 48 hours until he turns, time may be his greatest enemy of all.

What is best about Cargo is the fact that it doesn’t fall into the zombie-movie tropes. The approach is original, Andy’s goal is clear, and the performances/cinematography/direction/special effects are all very good. The only reason it doesn’t score higher here is because it feels very much like an extended short film rather than a fully fleshed out movie. Some of the B-plots feel a bit out of place and I often found myself bored during Thoomi’s solo storylines because I was always thinking about what was happening with Andy and Rosie. The merge between their two storylines was more or less successful, but the initial distance resulted in a disjointed watch.

If you’re a fan of subtle, character-driven horror films or even zombie films in general (i.e. The Walking Dead), I would definitely recommend this. But if it’s not your thing, this movie definitely won’t knock your socks off. ★★★½

David Merkle