After 25 years cut off from London, Scotland will be reduced to a cannibal society ruled by Mohican-haired, tattooed thugs – and only a team of talented, determined southerners, led by a dogged expat, will be able to save it. This nightmare scenario might sound like the outcome of independence under the SNP predicted by a Labour Party think tank, but it is the plot of a film released this week.
In Doomsday, directed by Newcastle-born Neil Marshall, the saviour of Scotland is not Prime Minister Gordon Brown, but the somewhat more photogenic and aerobicised figure of Hollywood-based actress Rhona Mitra.
Although the movie shows Glasgow in a less than glamorous light as a wrecked, empty ghetto where street gangs roam, Doomsday has been welcomed by Visit Scotland, which hopes it will attract tourists, and Scottish Screen, which contributed £300,000 towards its £17m budget and assisted in finding locations. It has, however, raised a few eyebrows among nationalists, who wonder if its bleak premise says more about English attitudes towards Scotland than some would care to admit.
Pitched at young adult audiences who relish a good bloodbath, Scottish Screen saw Doomsday as a chance to show a side of Scotland not represented by kilted epics like Braveheart and Rob Roy or television’s Monarch of the Glen
‘Doomsday brought significant benefits to Scotland, not least to Scotland’s talented base of cast and crew who worked on the production,’ said a spokeswoman. ‘It’s likely to also attract a big audience who will see the extent to which Scotland can provide a flexible and diverse backdrop to all genres of film.’
And Visit Scotland, which represents the tourist industry, agrees. ‘Film tourism undoubtedly creates an opportunity to market Scotland to a massive worldwide audience,’ said its spokeswoman.
Marshall, who had box office success with The Descent and Dog Soldiers, describes this new sci-fi epic as his ‘vision of the future’.
‘A deadly virus attacks the UK and the government is forced to build a wall to quarantine the whole of Scotland in order to ensure the survival of the rest of the nation,’ he said. ‘The story picks up 25 years in the future, when an elite team is sent in, over the wall, to try to find a cure.’
On the face of it, the premise of the film, which also stars Bob Hoskins, is not just an exciting mix of a zombie horror and Mad Max pessimism, it also represents a welcome break from the only too common tartan and shortbread approach to Scottish film making.
Although most of the location work took place in South Africa, many key scenes were shot in Scotland, and the cast includes Scottish actors Martin Compston and Cal Macaninch.
Some think the film is an insight into England’s latent view of Scotland. ‘I think it is a subliminal thought they have in England: in the dark recesses of their minds they believe that if Scotland is ever separated from London then we will be cut off from the rest of the world for good,’ said SNP Westminster MP Angus MacNeil, who represents Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles).
‘They think we’ll build our own Hadrian’s Wall and keep everyone out – which is of course nonsense. At 80p a brick it will simply be too expensive.
‘The complimentary part is that people are thinking about Scotland as we are moving more and more towards independence. But the film depicts a country that is still the plaything of London. It is decisions made in London that has led to it becoming a quarantine zone.’
MacNeil insists that by the time 2033 arrives, the year in which the film is set, Scotland will not be a disaster zone, but a prosperous, independent country. ‘It won’t be a case of Doomsday but Independence Day,’ he said. ‘Not apocalypse but utopia.’
When Alex Salmond became First Minister he spoke of ‘a progressive consensus available which wants to take Scotland forward’. But Sol, Doomsday’s anti-hero Scottish leader, played by Craig Conway, has an approach that is quite different.
‘Whoever they send here,’ he says, ‘we’re gonna catch ’em, we’re gonna cook ’em, and we’re gonna eat ’em.’