Notable Cast: Rob Freeman, Prince David Oseia
Review: So the African nation doesn’t have enough problems with disease, poverty, genocide, war lords, and lions (I can only assume), but now the population has to fight an onslaught of the walking dead. And I mean WALKING dead. I’ve never seen such laxidasical zombies to this point in my life, shuffling slower than my grandma with a hangover. The Dead is dated 2010, but didn’t see a DVD release here stateside till Valentines day this year (2012). Perfect date movie, eh? Nothing screams romance like snuggling up with your lovely and watching zombies bite through soft squishy flesh like tearing meat off a chicken bone. “See the beating heart in that poor man’s open chest cavity? That’s how my heart beats for you….” Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and say releasing an unknown zombie flick on Valentine’s Day wasn’t great marketing, making the film’s release easily forgettable. Luckily, a web banner caught my eye while reading http://www.bloody-disgusting.com one afternoon with a quote proclaiming The Dead “Best zombie film of the year” from [insert random movie critic here]. Challenge accepted! So I took to iTunes, and rented what hoped to be a genre changing zombie blast. But made ever so apparent after my viewing is the undeniable fact that we all have different tastes and opinions, don’t we?
Taking place on the hot African landscape, we see a zombie infested country erupting in chaos. Villages are being slaughtered by walkers, always increasing their already massive numbers. Lt. Brian Murphy (Freeman) is on the last plane out of Africa, leaving too early preventing full preparation for take off after a zombie attack on the airfield. Unable to continue flight, the pilot announces their inevitable crash. Murphy buckles in and survives the crash, but is forced to retreat straight back into the same danger he tried to escape. Being an army mechanic, Brian finds an old junk pick-up truck he fixes up and takes to the closest dirt path. These zombies lumber along, barely reacting to the car, so as long as Brian keeps moving everything should turn out alright for him. Along the way, Brian crosses paths with an African soldier who is abandoning duties in order to find his son. Sgt. Daniel Dembele (Osela) tags along, offering guidance and travel tips in exchange for the safe transport. Brian wants nothing more to return home, and in order to do so he must work together with his new guide Daniel. The scorching, beating heat and scarce supply of water is enough to make a man give in to mother nature, but our heroes press on in the face of monsters much more treacherous…
No bullet hole in the head? Try again…
Zombie film of the year? The Dead is not. Impressive in segments and traditionally created, but really just as bland as a zombie desert invasion could be. The Ford brothers went old school and reverted back to zombie portrayals reminiscent of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, but at what cost? These zombies move brutally slow, taking away that sense of urgency from our characters. Brian and Daniel could easily clear any zombies encountered, merely by walking around slicing heads off. There was never really any tense imposing danger. Except when both characters stupidly fall asleep at the same time, on purpose, in the open, with nothing but a can on a string placed over a rock as some archaic Slomin’s Sheild. I mean, zombies are everywhere hellbent on making you dinner, and neither thinks it a good idea to rest on and off so at least one can keep watch? A plot point that obviously peeved me, I was infuriated watching the ensuing events based on nothing but survivalist stupidity. Just one of the reasons I was taken out of The Dead.
What kept me around all movie though was the gore. Some of these scenes were skin crawlingly gross, probably making me stop a meal if I were eating. The payoff with these lumbering undead villagers is yes, while easily avoidable when thinned out, if a whole group outnumbered you, it was a guarantee your flesh would be ripped and you’d see your organs in a heartbeat. I don’t get queasy often during horror, but kudos to The Dead for churning my stomach as zombies munched away at their helpless victims. The way strands of red flesh would string from their mouths like gooey cheese off a bite of pizza…ok stopping now before I lose my appetite again, but you get my point. The Fords delivered mightily along with Dan Rickard’s effects work and Max Van De Banks makeup department bringing the dead to life, earning easy comparisons to some of the best.
In the end, when the dust had settled on The Dead, there was no getting past a sluggish pace, despite how brutally graphic the action got. Our only characters most of the film are Brian and Daniel, dialogue is at a minimum, the action is thinly spread without much excitement, and the surroundings are gorgeous yet become repetitive. We can only watch Brian navigate the sandy terrain so long, passing zombies who pose no threat. The Fords redeem some lost credibility by wrapping up things in a nice emotionally apocalyptic fashion, but the worst damage is done long before. With new high intensity zombie films boasting zeds who sprint and jump like wild animals, it’s hard to feel the traditional fear when characters can just jog away from their stalkers without ever even looking back. I get it, end of the world, dead roam the earth, end of humanity, sure, horrific topics, but not to sound morbid, done before. I can’t stress again how easy Daniel dispatched of numerous zombies, seeming like a cakewalk. Like GoldenEye for N64, set on the lowest difficulty, with a Gameshark, Invincibility turned on, and a golden gun in hand. Cakewalk. How is the audience supposed to experience fear, when the characters can’t even show it? Glad I gave it a try at least, but The Dead is regrettably just as lifeless as the undead subjects roaming Africa.
Final Rating: 5.5 animated tribal corpses out of 10
Safari-ing, to the extreme…