It’s a tough task to take a short film and stretch it in to a feature length adaptation worthy of the original concept. Often it can fail and other times if we’re lucky, we can end up with something pretty special. Thankfully “Cargo” falls in to the latter category, as it’s a touching, heartbreaking and eerie tale, about finding hope when all hope is lost. The original Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling short film “Cargo” is one of my favorite independent short films of all time, and the team of Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling thankfully keep in touch with the original short’s idea of a dad trying to give his daughter a second chance in a horrible world, while also expanding on the premise.
“Cargo” is set in Australia when, after a horrendous zombie epidemic, young couple Andy and Kay and their toddler daughter spend their days floating down the river looking for resources. When Kay is viciously bitten, Andy struggles to look for some kind of help for his wife as her time is slowly running out. But when things spiral out of control, Andy is bitten by Kay. Now faced with a ticking clock before he turns in to a flesh eating monster, he spans the Australian outback looking for some semblance of sanctuary to give his daughter one chance at life before he turns.
Ramke and Howling do a stellar job of adapting the original short film, creating a horror drama that’s soaked in emotion and pain. Martin Freeman takes up the mantle of leading man and is absolutely fantastic as a dad struggling to hold on to his family and only finds them slipping away in the haze of an unbiased and unforgiving infection. While “Cargo” is technically a zombie movie, Ramke and Howling are very restrained in giving us a glimpse at them first hand, choosing instead to reveal the dehumanizing toll a bite or scratch takes on its victims. The zombies are always a looming threat in the background, and it becomes more and more impossible to shield his daughter from the violence the more Andy travails in to the wilderness.
“Cargo” is primarily about family and how difficult it is to let go of certain loved ones and admit that some things are jut out of our hands. Andy’s experience with just about everyone only serves to echo that idea, while also making it ever more clear that his young daughter deserves a fighting chance in an increasingly dangerous world. “Cargo” is a stellar film and top notch horror hybrid. While sure it’s gory, eerie, and tense, I loved it mainly for its often riveting drama, rich characterization, and stunning turn by Martin Freeman.
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