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State of Emergency (2010)

Image Entertainment
DVD Released: 4/16/2013

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/17/2013

"Go big or go home" is a term we hear a lot today and it's meant to imply that if something isn't huge and pushed to the extremes, then it's not worth doing. But, that's not necessarily true. Sometimes, smaller and quieter can be the way to go. Sure, on some level we all enjoy big, bombastic movies like The Avengers or the Transformers movies, but there's nothing wrong with a film which paints a small, intimate portrait of an event or situation. This can be doubly interesting if it takes place in a genre which is known for being loud and brash. We get a dose of this in State of Emergency.

As State of Emergency opens, Jim (Jay Hayden) is attempting to care for Emily (McKenna Jones), but her wounds appear to be fatal. He carries her to a nearby horse stable, which is vacant. After securing the building, Jim turns on a television and we learn that an explosion at a nearby chemical plant has created a panic in the area and that the military is attempting to get things under control. We also soon learn that the situation has lead some citizens to become very violent. Jim is contacted by Scott (Scott Lilly), who is held up in a nearby warehouse. Taking his chances, Jim joins Scott, who has sought shelter with his wife, Julie (Kathryn Todd Norman) and Ix (Tori White), a young woman they found. The group ensures that the warehouse is fortified and wait for rescue. But, as time passes, more of the out-of-control people gather outside.

As if you didn't know, zombie movies (and all of the headings which fall under that sub-genre of horror) are all the rage (no pun intended) right now. However, this category includes many different types of movies. Some, like the upcoming World War Z, take a global look at a zombie outbreak and show many locations and characters. The same could be said for Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later. Other movies, like George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, the one which started it all, are more intimate, focusing on one location and a few individuals. Most movies in this genre fall somewhere in-between.

State of Emergency definitely leans towards the smaller part of the spectrum, as it features only four primary characters and two locations. The story is small as well. The cause of the zombie problem is explained, but never dwelled upon. (And before an argument breaks out, yes, the attackers here fall into the same category as the berserkers in 28 Days Later and aren't technically zombies -- which are reanimated dead people -- but we aren't going to quibble about that.) Only a small handful of attackers appear in the movie. The story contains one "twist" and when it arrives, it fits the story, but it isn't necessarily shocking.

State of Emergency's goal is to simply provide us with a look at what it would be like to be involved in this kind of crisis situation. There a few action scenes, but we mainly see how the survivors band together. It would be easy to call this a smaller-scale version of The Walking Dead. That's not a wildly inaccurate description, but that series lives to show us the tension which exists between the survivors and how civilization break down in an emergency. For the most part, State of Emergency stays away from this sort of spectacle. This is one of the few movies in this genre where the characters are actually interested in helping one another and aren't just looking out for themselves.

Having said all of that, some will find State of Emergency boring and slow. Again, there is not a lot of action or drama here. (Don't be fooled by the DVD cover art which makes the movie look like the Left 4 Dead video game.) The movie sticks to its guns and takes a detailed look at how these four people exist over this period of time. While this approach is daring, when the film began, I had hoped that Jim would be the only character which we met -- that would be a different movie! The movie's opening is also uneven, as we learn from the deleted scenes found on the DVD. The actors do a good job and I'm convinced that Jay Hayden is a lost Jonas brother. Those looking for a zombie movie which is more interested in characters than violence will find something to like in State of Emergency.

State of Emergency never explains what happened to all of the horses on DVD courtesy of Image Entertainment. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only trace amounts of grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good. A few shots where a bit too dark, but this wasn't a major problem. The picture was never soft and the level of detail was fine for a DVD. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Much of State of Emergency is quiet, thus the impressive audio effects really stand out. The first attack scene offers a nice amount of stereo and surround effects which allow the viewer to be right there with Jim and wonder where the noises are coming from. Later on, when the military helicopters fly by, we are treated to good surround sound and subwoofer effects.

The State of Emergency DVD contains only a few extras. "The Making of State of Emergency" (6 minutes) is comprised of on-set video, which is comprised mostly of "fly on the wall" type footage. We get some comments from the cast and crew members, but we mostly see what life on the set was like and how some shots were staged. The DVD contains DELETED SCENES which run about 14 minutes. The bulk of this is given to a very long scene which looks as if it would have been the original opening to the movie. It adds some more information, but it also contains some spoilers. "Visual FX" (2 minutes) is a reel of shots showing how visual effects were used to enhance the film. For many of these, we see an original shot and then the final shot with the effects laid on top.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.