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Review: Smart horror comes to the ‘burbs in ‘What We Become’

‘What We Become’
A scene from the Danish horror film “What We Become.”
(Adam Morris Philp)

Danish horror film “What We Become” delivers what’s AMC’s TV series “Fear the Walking Dead” has only promised: a savvy, sensitive study of suburbanites coping with an encroaching apocalypse. Fans of blood and guts won’t find what they’re looking for here (until the final 10 minutes, that is); but serious-minded genre fans should feel satisfied.

Benjamin Engell stars as Gustav, a sullen teen who spends his days ignoring his parents and crushing on his pretty next-door neighbor Sonja (Marie Boda). Then a viral epidemic quarantines Gustav’s entire community — perhaps to keep them safe from the outside world, or is it vice-versa?

Writer-director Bo Mikkelsen saves the full-scale “monsters at the door” stuff until the end, at which which point “What We Become” takes a turn toward the routine. The climax is effectively terrifying, enhanced by Martin Pedersen’s moody synthesizer score, but it’s nothing audiences haven’t seen before.

For the first hour though, Mikkelsen engages in keen sociology, considering how a privileged family reacts as the spreading plague leads to armed soldiers surrounding their neighborhood. How long can they hold on to their ingrained expectations that everything will turn out okay?

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Focusing on those smaller emotional strengths — even as society slides into chaos — “What We Become” keeps circling back to Gustav’s infatuation with Sonja, proving that at least zombie epidemics can bring people together — if only for one last day.

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‘What We Become’

In Danish with English subtitles

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Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood

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