If I could make noise via text, the opening to this review of Chrysalis would be a loud sigh, followed by me questioning why the word “chrysalis” needs an “h,” anyway. Seriously, what good does that do other than completely mess me up when typing it? Yes, the spelling of “chrysalis” is more interesting than the film itself. As is my justification for bringing it up at all. And the explanation of the justification. Etc.
The film follows two people, Joshua (Cole Simon) and Penelope (Sara Gorsky), as they wander around a post-apocalypse USA. An infection killed everyone somewhere around 25 years ago, but they survived, because they’re special. There are still infected running around, and they behave just like zombies, because this film doesn’t contain an ounce of creativity. Well, I guess not exactly like zombies, because you don’t necessarily have to kill them with a headshot. But otherwise, they crave flesh, are slow-moving, and most importantly look like zombies. There aren’t a lot of them around anymore, but the two leads take turns taking watch anyway.
Early in the film, they run into another survivor, Abira (Tanya Thai McBride), who tells them that she was separated from another group, one that has plans to clear out and rebuild a city. Sounds good, right? Of course it does. So, off on the road we head. More zombie-movie clichés follow, and then eventually the movie ends with you having learned nothing, been scared very little, and probably drooling in your sleep, because the film will have knocked you out long before it concludes.
I think the point I started tuning out was when Abira functioned as an exposition dump to tell the audience exactly how the infection happened. Why should we even care? Things are scarier when they’re the unknown. Sure, the infected act just like zombies, but what good does it do the audience to know the order of events that triggered the world ending? That’s especially true when it’s not even an interesting series of events, which is the case with this film.
This is also the point in Chrysalis that we get all of the characters’ back stories relayed to us. Yes, it all happens at once. It feels like more than ten minutes of just sitting there and listening to exposition. It’s enough to make you want to stop watching. And there’s nothing around this segment to make you want to trudge on. None of the characters are interesting, the premise is generic, there aren’t really any scares, and I’ve already stopped caring about finishing this sentence with another example.
Chrysalis does have decent acting going for it. Sara Gorsky, Cole Simon and Tanya Thai McBride are all perfectly fine — perhaps even good — in the main roles, and the sense of despair that living 20+ years after the end of the world is conveyed more through them than through anything else. Seeing little things, like finding marbles, light up a face really makes the hardships through which they have had to live hit home.
Now, to be fair, Chrysalis is a film coming to us with a budget of $35,000, and for that budget, it looks impressive. The production values are higher than you’d expect given the budget. However, that doesn’t really excuse the blandness, the lack of creativity, and the information dump that killed any interest I had in the project. Looking good — even if the aesthetics are supposed to be ugly, because, you know, destroyed world and all that — doesn’t really excuse any of the issues that the film had. But it does speak volumes to what can be done with an incredibly low budget. You wouldn’t guess how low the budget is just by looking at the film.
Chrysalis is more or less just your standard zombie movie, even if the villains are called “infected” and not “zombies.” It uses a bunch of genre clichés, its story isn’t interesting, its characters are bland, and there’s an information dump partway through that just killed any involvement I had in what it had to offer. It contains some good acting and it looks way better than its incredibly low budget would suggest, but this isn’t a good movie.