When is a zombie movie not a zombie movie? Robert Enriquez’s indie thriller Escape to the Cove answers this question. It’s set in the near future in which a viral pandemic has left most of the population mindless, shambling murder machines called “wanderers.” The story touches on some very familiar themes of the collapse of society leading to fear, greed, and people devolving into opposing natural instincts for and against order. As in the pre-pandemic world, some people are kind and helpful, while others seize the moment as a chance to become criminal warlords killing and robbing.
A young man named Cairo (Garrett Barghash) makes his way to the seaside, where he meets other helpful individuals. There he hears about a sanctuary safe from “wanderers” (not-at-all zombies) and brigands. It’s a near-mythical place where the rules of civilization still hold, known simply as The Cove.
“…a viral pandemic has left most of the population mindless, shambling murder machines…”
Cairo finds a reluctant mentor in Solomon Cook (Robert Enriquez), who saves him from the various dangers of the wharf on his first night there, Cook knows where the cove is, and he’s motivated to get there, as it’s where he’s heard his daughter is. But, unfortunately, what he does not have are a boat and fuel. At first, Solomon insists Cairo must keep moving, as he doesn’t want to be responsible for him, but soon enough, he proves his worth, and Solomon grudgingly forges a partnership with Cairo. Their goal becomes evading the ruthless Luther (Mike Markoff) and his crew while pulling together the resources needed for the trip. It should be noted that Eric Roberts does have a brief cameo as a gun-running boss and Luther’s father.
With several clever references to life during the current pandemic, you can think of Escape to the Cove as The Walking Dead meets Covid-19. Enriquez wrote, directed, and stars in the film, keeps things intimate with his limited budget and low overhead. He produces a palatable result, despite the challenges, with an excellent production quality in cinematography and sound. Being rough around the edges gives the film street cred and charm. But, as with the best Indies, the filmmaker has turned what could have been considered adversity into stylistic elements that contribute to making it better.
Escape to the Cove could benefit from a tighter edit. The numerous dialogue scenes run long, though the action sequences are most fun. Also, it would be satisfying to have had more “wanderers” on screen. They always deliver. Enriquez put together a very gratifying Saturday afternoon popcorn flick here, blending in a nod to current events with the very reliable zombie trope. It’s not fancy, but it is solid entertainment.
"…when is a zombie movie not a zombie movie?"