Sunday, April 15, 2012

Horror Film Review

The Dead (2010):  Zombie flick!  From the U.K.!  I was good and ready for an awesome movie this weekend after the Immortals DVD I watched first turned out to be such a disappointment  (I may post a review just to bitch about it).  If you look at the poster over there, it says, "The best zombie movie of the year.", its' not.  In 2010, Rammbock - Berlin Undead was full of much more awesomeness.  I'd agree it's the best zombie movie poster of the year, though.

I will admit that the filmmakers (Howard J. Ford and Jonathan Ford) did their best to breathe new life into the genre, and they partially succeeded.  They set the action in an area of Africa that's more often than not embroiled in civil war and plagued by disease and mass starvation.  Given the setting, it's not surprising that 99% of the zombies are indigenous Africans and they're great (they're Romero zombies, which means slow, relentless, and absolutely terrifying).  So that's the partial success of the Ford brothers.  I'll run you through the movie and then point out what didn't work so well.

American Air Force engineer Lt. Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman) is on the last evacuation plane to leave zombie-infested Africa.  It crashes just off the coast, Murphy swims ashore, and his very long journey begins.  Meanwhile, AWOL soldier Sgt. Daniel Dembele (Prince David Oseia) returns to his village only to discover his wife's eviscerated corpse.  His young son was taken to relative safety by his fellow soldiers.  Daniel joins up with Murphy and an uneasy friendship of convenience is formed as Murphy searches for an airplane and Daniel searches for his son.  As you may imagine, things don't end well for one of them and the other is left to carry on alone. 

What didn't work so well in The Dead was the pacing.  The first half hour reminded me of Castaway (the Tom Hanks movie) and rest an episode of The Walking Dead.  Now, The Walking Dead is an excellent television series but let's be honest, it can be painfully slow.  It reminded me of Castaway because after Murphy washes ashore, there's no dialogue for a very long time.  This glacial pacing is tempered, however, by some very good gore effects.  Murphy running over a zombie in a truck needs to be seen to be believed.  But the gore won't do enough tempering to keep you from dozing off during the second act. 


Acting:  Oseia is very good as the intense and determined Daniel.  Freeman is just adequate as Murphy, though.  No other actors have enough screen time to bother with. 
Story:  Not a terribly unique idea in and of itself, but the choice of location and subplots keep it from falling into the realm of the mundane.
Direction:  This is tricky.  I complained about how slow the movie is, but the individual scenes where the zombies are closing in for the kill are incredibly tense and well done.  I just wish the Ford brothers could have kept that up throughout. 
Production Values:  I think there were only two scenes shot in a studio; the rest were all outdoors on location in the west African nation of Burkina Faso so the cinematography is pretty groovy.  I don't know what the budget was, but they used good quality film stock and very realistic props (guns). 
Gore/FX:  Blood is bountiful but not over the top.  The gore, especially the destruction of zombie heads, is cool.  I say cool, some might say too realistic and nasty.  Finally, the zombie makeup is a lesson in "less is more."  A subtle of paling of dark brown skin and some freaky white contact lenses creates a super creepy undead bad guy. 
Scares: or two.  One that got me was right after Murphy washed up on the beach and is desperately trying to smash open a crate of guns while zombies close in on him.  It was the zombie with no legs pulling himself along with only his arms that did it. 
The Ending:  Throughout the film, we have no idea if the affliction spread beyond Africa and therefore if help will be forthcoming.  We find out.  Yeah, take a wild guess.  It's not the annoying "all is lost" climax, though, but it's close.  A sliver of hope remains and that's all I ever ask for.
The Verdict:  Should you see The Dead?  Zombie fans, yes.  Horror fans, maybe.  Everyone else, rent something else.  Just avoid Immortals.   

My Rating:  3 out of 5.

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