The Dead (2010)
Directed by The Ford Brothers
I wrote a list last year of my The Remaining Best of the Rest Horror Movies of 2011. I had only seen 3 movies on that list and now I've seen my 4th. The Dead was #6 on that list and I figured it had the making of a classic zombie film.
I wasn't wrong.
The zombie craze has died down a bit (we still have The Walking Dead thank the Universe) and so this hit my radar in a big way. It's a film that has shades of Cannibal Holocaust mixed in with Lucio Fulci's Zombie 2 and a tad of Day of the Dead. Shot on 35mm, it really has a look of a film discovered from the 70s or 80s. And it that way it honors the past of the essence of a zombie film. Slowly decaying reanimated corpses, slow moving hordes of the undead, bright blue eyes of the infected and the craving of living flesh.
It's the roots of a zombie film and it's awesome. The African setting is a sight to behold. The scenery, the cinematography can't be duplicated. The grittiness, the sweltering heat, the jagged mountain formations and the never ending desert are sights to behold.
Sure the story was rather pedestrian, the action scenes generic but the feel of zombie madness is ever present. You feel like your in danger in the pitch darkness as is our main character and it's all about survival, not jokes. The reality of The Dead is that you only can think about one thing: survival.
It's the zombie film that countless others have tried to make but failed. This isn't your Resident Evil zombie film. It's a "no more room in hell" one.
When the last evacuation flight out of war-torn Africa crashes off the coast, American Air Force Engineer Lieutenant Brian Murphy (ROB FREEMAN) emerges as the sole survivor in a land where the dead are returning to life and attacking the living.
On the run in a hostile and inhospitable parched landscape, where sudden death lurks around every sun-burnished corner, Murphy has to use his wits and ingenuity if he is to get home alive to his family. When Murphys path clashes with that of Sergeant Daniel Dembele (PRINCE DAVID OSEI), whose village has been torn apart by the reanimated dead, they join forces.
The two desperate men from two very different cultures fight side by side to survive across the incredible vistas of Africa as the world succumbs to the deadliest of viruses.
From the opening scene to the last, it seems our mercenary mechanic Brian Murphy is always in danger. Every successive scene seems to have zombie danger. From crash landing on to the beach, BOOM! zombies on the attack. Zombies in the jungle, zombies in the villages, crazy zombies all over the place. Armed with a gun and nothing else, our trust Macgyver is able to get a car running in the sweltering heat.
He soon meets up with Sgt. Daniel, a AWOL soldier who is looking for his son. They team up and look out for each other in this new hell. What The Dead does is a bit different in your typical zombie movie team up. Nobody becomes super buddies. It's a more serious tone, jokes are a rarity. Both Brian and Dan know that the land is full of potential hazards and they gotta keep on their toes.
The two kick ass elements of The Dead are surely the scenery and the zombie kills. The rural landscape of this Africa is where no zombie movie has gone before. Zombies in cities, on farms. We've seen it. Seeing zombies in that Fulci island sorta way is taking it back to its roots. Zombies on beaches, zombies on dirt roads, zombies in the dead of night with those ominous blue eyes. That's some spooky, suspenseful shit.
At one point our duo go to an abandoned air field and Brian investigates a tunnel in a hanger. It's an effective scene. As they bring back gas for their car in the middle of the night, they both are throttled by hungry flesh eaters, many in different forms. Legless zombies, armless zombies.
Which brings us to the kills. Sarge Daniel is armed with an M4 and a machete and he knows how to use the fuckin Machte like Treach from Naughty by Nature. Decaps, arm caps, you name it. From what I can tell, we get our kills o'natural. Less CGI which made me happy. Sure the standard gunshot to the heads are there but it had that Zombie 2 feel to most of the kills.
The personalities of both Brian and Daniel are plain, but there logic echoed my own. At one point Daniel sets up a string can detection system. In another Brian sleeps in a tree. It makes sense and I'm glad the Ford Bros made it a point to put that in there.
Clearly there is a point of African war theme here. It seems tribal factions have stopped fighting in order to unite to fight the common enemy, the undead. The theme of family, sense of identity and survival are all present as well but don't become to preachy.
The Dead is a throwback to the vintage undiluted zombie apocalypse movies of old. African zombies are actually a new twist to the cluttered world of the genre but proves quite effective. We've seen the Resident Evil game have a version within Africa as a setting but in a movie it makes it feel all the more gritty and hostile.
The movie is indeed short on story, developed characters and thrilling WTF awesome action scenes. But it makes up for it in a landscape of beautiful cinematography where this safari is no longer one inhabited by animals, but of the dead. A movie that can take the genre back to why I love Fulci gives me hope. And oddly enough, that was the message it tried to echo at the end.
Zombie kills galore
Hit and run trauma
Tire head trauma
Somebody dies in the most stupid way that got me going WTF
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
The Dead is quite effective to making me reminisce about the golden age of B-movie zombie films. It's not at the tier of Zombie 2 or Dawn/Day but it never dumbs it down for the audience. It's seriousness made it all the more terrifying. In the end, it's a survival movie and one that can be called a cult classic in the making.
The Dead is out on Blu-Ray and DVD.