“The more my weapons are blooded, the greater my fear.”

It’s 2015. Oil is gone and the world has been thrown into chaos. Overpopulation has reached a critical stage and to combat it a massive company known only as ‘The Corporation’ has taken charge of society. Their plan for the betterment of mankind? They force scientists to find a disease to weed out the poor and let the rich survive on.

Their plan backfires pretty badly. While people did line up willingly to receive the shots (that they didn’t know were manufactured to kill them in a month), they didn’t die. Instead they were turned them into something worse than human. Now known as Biosyns, they run and screech like apes in their quest for blood, infecting all in their path.

While the cities have become warzones, a deaf-mute named Max (Ray Bullock Jr.) lives a nomadic existence in the middle of the woods. He’s somehow immune to the disease, and thankfully is trained in survival skills. He fights for his life every single day, wielding dual axes, spears and blades with incredible skill against the Biosyns. He’s staying alive but getting increasingly worried by the fact that the creatures are starting to learn and think, and even hunt in packs.

Meanwhile, a Tracker for the Corporation (Shiv Grewal) is traveling with a group who are charged with finding and eliminating Max. The soldier for hire has a change of heart once he realizes the potential this guy means, and the unlikely duo team up and head south to find a resistance group rumored to be camped there.

Along the way they pick up a couple of survivors, who uncover a little bit more of the mystery. They soon find out that things are worse than they feared…. and the Corporation has sent people to pick all of them up.

It’d be easy to simply label this movie as a modern zombie movie that’s afraid of the z-word, but it’s so much more than that. It has a couple of things that most recent horror films seem to shy away from these days- a smart script and good actors. While obviously operating on a minuscule budget (more things are hinted at than seen) the acting and story help elevate the film beyond its peers. See what happens when you get a director that cares about more about than just simply showing cool kills? Instead of relying solely on action scenes and gore (although, don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of both) director Matthew Hope made a smart decision to focus on genuinely interesting characters, while still including enough beautiful shots and over the top bloodletting to appease all fans of film. All wrapped up in a twisted, post-apocalyptic vision.

Not to say it’s perfect. The biggest problem with it is that the plot takes a while to unravel. In fact, the beginning is kept very vague, and as this is a much slower-paced film than most it’s difficult to get a feel of what kind of movie they were going for. Is it humor? It is drama? Is it going for gore? Once the story starts to fall into place and things start to get going at a faster pace the film doesn’t disappoint, but I can see a lot of people being turned off by the first act.

Their loss. As this is a zombie movie at heart, there’s a ton of brutal scenes that’ll get the gorehounds a-clappin’. Our hero really goes to town on the Biosyns and soldiers with those axes, and the action’s pretty exciting and stylish, reminding me somewhat of Ryuhei Kitamura’s Versus. Now, it’s nowhere near as batshit insane as that movie is (really, few movies are) but the hand to hand fighting set in the natural light of the woods brought back memories of that amazing film. The Vanguard is also incredibly bloody in that throwback, spurting, “there can’t be that much blood in a person!” way. Fun times all around.

The music is incredible as well, pounding drums that provide the perfect tribal feel for the film. I’d buy a soundtrack to this film… it’s music that fits with the fall of society, of a return to simpler ways. Great stuff.

And all throughout, the actors bring a sense of humanity (and despair) to the film. A good chunk of it is narrated by Max, and while he speaks lines that could have easily been laughable with a lesser actor, Ray Bullock Jr. manages to create a fascinating person here. One who you like learning more about, and following through incredibly trying times to see what becomes of him.

It’s nice to think what the film could have been like with more money behind it, but as is it’s a tight little flick well worth checking out. I’m not sure what kind of theatrical release (if any) this movie is going to get over here, but if you’re in the mood for an original take on the zombie genre, pick this up as soon as it hits dvd.

7.5 out of 10

(UPDATE- The kind people at Imagination Worldwide tell me that Anchor Bay has picked this movie up for an October dvd release. We’ll let you know when details are set in stone!)