If you're like me, and that would be really weird considering I'm a footless film critic in a wheelchair, then you probably roll your eyes just about every time you see the words "indie" and "zombie" put together. Let's face it. Every filmmaking who has ever even remotely dabbled within the realm of horror has a wet dream fantasizing about making the ultimate indie zombie flick.
Chrysalis, the latest film from John Klein and Glass City Films, is not the ultimate zombie flick. It is, however, a fine example of how you take an incredibly familiar and overdone sub-genre and make it your bitch.
Okay, I'm sorry. That was a bit harsh.
It's difficult to not be a bit on edge having caught Chrysalis for myself. Just released on VOD on April 24th, Chrysalis exists in that familiar zombie world where society as we know it has ended. A bio-terrorist attack planted a virus that turned the majority of the population into ravenous creatures known only as "the infected." What the bombs didn't kill, the infected overran; what few supplies the infected didn't claim as their own were soon pillaged by those who had managed to survive. The world has for the most part been destroyed with only scattered remnants and staggered survivors wandering about in search of something or maybe anything. The majority of the infected are now dying off, an unsatisfied hunger ending their plague.
Josh (Cole Simon) and Penelope (Sara Gorsky) are the last survivors of a larger group. They have a wild dream to find others and begin to rebuild civilization, though they aren't particularly sure on what that would mean. One day, Josh hears gunshots and the two leave the safety of their sanctuary and discover Abira (Tanya Thai McBride), another survivor left over from another group who knows of a plan to gather at a safe house. They all begin to journey together, though it is a journey filled with risks, doubts, fears, suspicions, and more.
Written by Ben Kurstin and directed by John Klein, Chrysalis is a film that looks and feels like a passion project, a film with richly developed characters with whom you bond throughout their journey and who live in a story that somehow manages to feel both familiar yet fresh. The ensemble cast is strong, with Cole Simon's Josh coming off as far more than your usual cookie cutter zombie flick character. Simon's Josh is both strong and vulnerable, surprisingly romantic and yet also obviously impacted by this world in which he lives. As Penelope, Sara Gorsky is both believable and bold. She draws us in to her story and holds our attention throughout. Tanya Thai McBride's Abira, as well, energizes the film greatly when she appears on the screen and keeps that energy going throughout.
The film benefits greatly from a stellar production design by Max Traiman and Kurstin's top notch lensing. The film has such a mesmerizing look to it that I'd almost say you could sit there watching the screen and be completely happy, though I do actually recommend watching it with the volume up.
Chrysalis, which was filmed in Chicago and in surrounding communities such as Gary, Indiana and Calumet among others, has been released on VOD and you can check it out for yourself by visiting the film's website linked to in the credits on the left. For those with an appreciation for zombie flicks, indie or otherwise, the film will be a welcome addition to your personal viewing filmography.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic