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Why Neil Marshall’s ‘Doomsday’ is the Perfect Slice of ’80s Nostalgia

Over the last fifteen years or so, horror and science fiction films, as well as television shows, have been cashing in on the nostalgia people have for the pop culture of the 1980s. It’s a lucrative marketing tactic, one that works beyond the audience of childhood VHS junkies (just go look at the eBay prices of those NES classic systems from last year).

Luckily, it’s also a tactic that has generated some fantastic works of art.

From cerebral arthouse films like Beyond the Black Rainbow and less-than-subtle satires like Dude Bro Party Massacre 3 to the Spielberg/King inspired Netflix series “Stranger Things,” the influence of ‘80s pop culture has wormed its way back into the cultural zeitgeist and helped shape a generation of filmmakers and their fans.

This obsession with the ‘80s has become so omnipresent that it’s almost impossible to go to the theater without being subjected to trailers replete with neon logos and creepier versions of already creepy Police songs… and I love it.

I’m a sucker for so much of it.

I’ve found myself obsessing over just about every iota of ‘80s film pastiche that gets shoved in my face. And while I could spend the rest of this article beaming over The Void (no, but seriously, check that flick out if you haven’t already) or speculating as to what will happen in the next season of “Stranger Things” (so many Lovecraftian monsters), I’m going to instead champion Neil Marshall’s criminally overlooked and underappreciated 2008 film Doomsday.

Why? It pretty much nailed everything that was great about the horror and science fiction films we loved from the ‘80s.

Okay, full disclosure…

I am a big Neil Marshall fan. I believe The Descent is a masterpiece of modern horror in both the creature feature and claustrophobic thriller genres; Dog Soldiers is a damn near perfect werewolf movie, and he’s directed some of the most badass episodes of “Game of Thrones” to date. The guy is brilliant and knows how to shoot visceral, blood-soaked action like nobody’s business.

And those skills do not go to waste in Doomsday. The film embodies what made ‘80s classics like The Road Warrior, Escape from New York, Knightriders, and Day of the Dead stand the test of time, which is the genre-spicing ethos of “hey, let’s throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.”

And boy does it stick…

Doomsday takes pride in the batshit amalgam that it is. The film shifts gears between Romero horror to Carpenter sci-fi to medieval insanity in the span of an hour and does so pretty much effortlessly. It feels like walking through a museum of the great films from your childhood that you were never allowed to watch but totally did when your parents weren’t home, only presented with some better special effects and more technical proficiency.

It’s kind of like an HD remake of a video game you loved as a kid.

We see the insane car design from Road Warrior and the straightforward Arthurian translation presented by films like Excalibur or the made-for-TV movie King Arthur (which also stars Malcolm McDowell) bleed into the gore hound-pleasing splatter of [literally any ‘80s horror director] with ease – and damn does it make me feel right at home.

But the devil is in the details when it comes to Doomsday. There are countless nods to great ‘80s films and filmmakers. Some are about as subtle as a dropkick to the face (like characters named Miller and Carpenter or Rhona Mitra’s sweet Snake Plissken eyepatch for instance), but others seem to simply pay homage to the aesthetics. Marshall borrows (if not outright robs) visual style and tone from the aforementioned filmmakers to essentially create a greatest hits movie.

While a lot of ‘80s horror and sci-fi throwbacks being made these days lovingly poke fun of the films to which they pay homage, Doomsday remembers the good times. It wants you to reminisce over how cool it was the first time you saw Master Blaster in Beyond Thunderdome. It wants you to taste that pepperoni pizza-flavored, bile-ridden burp that bubbled up in your throat at the sleepover where you first watched Captain Rhodes be torn apart by an undead horde in Day of the Dead. This is a movie filled with reminders of great moments imprinted in your film buff psyche.

It’s unfortunate Doomsday never found its audience. Perhaps the fact that the film couldn’t decide on one movie to ape is why so many fans and critics didn’t enjoy it. But to me, that’s its charm. It’s not committing to one particular genre like Adam Wingard’s The Guest (a fine film in its own right), which leans heavily on ‘80s horror-thrillers like The Stepfather. Nor does it soak up 16mm film stock like The House of the Devil (another stellar retro film) to emulate that VHS look.

It’s odd, because in our current 140 character, binge-watching entertainment climate (damn, did that make me sound like an old man), a film with such a fantastic mash-up of genres, tones, and themes that keep its narrative propelling feels like it should be a smash hit, but alas…

I know we’ve talked about what a wonderful, forgotten gem Doomsday is on this site before, but I don’t think it can be put on a pedestal enough.



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COMMENTS

40 Comments
  • fracfreak13

    While I agree that Neil Marshall is a great director ex. Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Centurion and his Game of Thrones work, Doomsday to me seemed like a very tired copycat of Road Warrior in tone and action. Not a bad movie but weak for him. Love Rhona Mitra though!

    • J Jett

      Rhona is awesome! 🙂

  • I remember seeing this in theaters with friends a long time ago and I had a great time watching it. Good write up.

  • Rohan

    Doomsday kicks ass. 100% agree with you. Also agree that the void was spectacular. Recommend checking both of those out.

    • I haven’t seen the void but by the trailer alone it looks pretty terrifying. Into my watch list it goes!

      • Rohan

        It’s really good. It has a really Lovecraftian feel, which by definition is “Lovecraftian: when shit can’t get more fucked”. The whole movie is really dark and unsettling, but there is some action, which I appreciate in a dark movie.
        SPOILER ALERT

        A couple of people survive, which is what I like in a horror movie.

        • I loved how the ending totally reminiscent of Fulchi’s The Beyond

          • discochic

            you mean ripped off directly from… Fulci would turn in his grave. I was extremely disappointed with THE VOID – it had glimpses of promise but utterly a let down

    • J Jett

      i too thought THE VOID was really good! 🙂

  • Christopher Nickerson

    Doomsday was terrible. I was bored watching it and glad when it was over. It was derivative and poorly acted

  • Creepshow

    I still can’t find the pants that this movie bored off me.

    • James Allard

      Okay, I haven’t seen it, maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but that is the funniest damned thing I have read in … days? weeks? Regardless, Creepshow, ya done made my day.

  • J Jett

    i love and own this movie on DVD (i saw it in the theater as well!). it’s a weird mash up of different genre films (28 DAYS LATER, MAD MAX etc.) and it has UBER-hot Rhona Mitra & “Spoons” (from DOG SOLDIERS)!

  • jasonlives1986

    Love the movie.

    Don’t love that bd front page is full of editorials now and not horror news.

  • I’ve always said this film is an awesome remake of ‘Escape from New York’.

  • Nicolas Caiveau

    I love this movie. How is it not considered a classic yet is beyond me. Well, it is one to me, that’s all that matters.

  • ConnieHinesDorothyProvine

    One of the coolest unabashedly trashy movies of the era was The Toxic Avenger, the textbook definition of a movie that’s not afraid to do whatever it wants.

  • uriah369

    This film is so dumb and silly I just can’t take it.

  • sliceanddice

    Love marshall – but this is his second worst film after centurion.

  • GoodGuyGoneWrong

    Doomsday reminds me of Fury road in places. Yet this one is a way too load and chaotic without any sense.

  • Necro

    I love Marshall and most of his films, MOST of them. This one I have to rewatch cuz when I first seen this in theaters I damn near walked out on it. Back then I was more impatient than I am today. So I’m going to reserve judgment until I see it again.

    Sidenote: I know Marshall’s tied up with the new Hellboy but I’d personally like to see him eventually come back and finish off the much needed (IN MY OPINION) ‘Descent’ third film. With the way part two ended it’s screaming for that 3rd part. Again IMO!

    • Joseph Mayfield

      The second was garbage,(monster diarrhea scene, really??) and didn’t need to be made. The US Disney ending was bullshit.

      • Necro

        That’s fine your opinion

  • zomnombie

    Love Marshall, and I LOVE Doomsday! It is a perfect example of fun cinema. It is a cult movie without the grainy film overlay, it is pure adrenaline awesome!

  • Mehliens

    This site and its never-ending circle jerk of hyping hacks like Blomkamp, Marshal, Wan and Shyamalan. If anything they should do their best to ignore them and put the spotlight on proper directors and artists.

    • TheSlitheryDee

      So leave. Haha

  • lostboy408

    Doomsday was better when it was called Escape from New York, The Hills Have Eyes, The Road Warrior and the dozen other movies the damned thing shamelessly steals from.

    …and no, I’m not going to refer to it as “homage”. Theft is still theft. Gender flipping Snake Plissken doesn’t make it any less plagiarizing.

    • Russell Reball

      The same could be said about Lockout (which was essentially Escape from New York in outer space) And weren’t the producers sued for that?

      • pumkinheadfan VHS Forever!

        Haha yeah they did! and they lost! I think that’s why EuropaCorp is really pushing that Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ! Oh and the 2 Transporter sequels slated for release in the next few years! They gotta recoup the 450,000 euros settlement!

  • pumkinheadfan VHS Forever!

    I enjoy Marshall’s work except for this(there’s always one)! I remember pre-streeting this when I worked at the video store and was kinda stoked about seeing it until I actually watched it, but I feel (what some have mentioned already) that I had seen it all before.These types of movies that run the thin line of re-tread and nostalgia/homage are tricky things to tackle, but hey same could be said about a dozen other films that I do like and others strait up don’t. I may have to give it a re-watch again. It’s only been what 10 years…Crap time flies!

  • Joseph Mayfield

    I love Marshal… But this film is just not good. I really wanted to love it when I went to see it in the theaters, and about a quarter of the way through, the horror sunk in that this was a major dud.

  • Carl Chrystan

    I do love the film, but it’s so racist towards Scottish people. Are there any other films that are the same?

    • Barry El Beardo

      How so?

  • TheSlitheryDee

    Garbage. First movie I ever walked out on.

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