The Dead

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When Lieutenant Brian Murphy’s plane crashes off the coast of West Africa, he must rely on the expertise of Sergeant Daniel Dembele to get him through a zombie infested landscape if he ever hopes to learn the fate of family back home.

I would not want to be the zombie that’s forced to chase this guy if it wants dinner. That dry heat and baking sun are not conductive to a zombie’s wellbeing, or beauty regiment for that matter. We already spend a lot of money on skin creams to avoid drying out because living, dead, or something in between, nobody wants to look like a piece of day old bacon, even pigs, though that might be for a different reason, but it’s not just a matter of vanity. The dried kindling look might work for certain situations, but it tends to makes the living braver than they would be if we still looked somewhat fresh, the thought being that a dried zombie must be too old to pose any kind of real threat. That might be true, it might not, but that doesn’t matter to the terrified meatsack who thinks that they now have a shot at survival, and when hope fills in the void left by despair, anything is possible. It’s also when a human is at their most dangerous, especially to the living dead. If you look sufficiently terrifying, it’s possible to scare your victim into paralysis which makes eating them much easier, biting into a squirming human is a huge mess. It doesn’t always work of course, some people lean more towards the fight than the flight, but if they think you’re an elderly member of the living dead, the fight response is far more likely. You can understand why we dislike arid environments, and the kind of dry you’d get after walking through a desert like the one our heroes must traverse is the kind of dry you don’t come back from.

West Africa is in chaos. When the dead began to rise, the military wasn’t quick enough and the situation spiraled out of control with both the major cities and small villages being overrun by the undead. It happened so fast that an American air force engineer couldn’t properly repair the evacuation plane he was using to escape. Lieutenant Brian Murphy wanted nothing more than to see his family again, but his plane crashing off the coast of West Africa has put that on hold. While Lt. Murphy struggles to survive in the aftermath of the crash, Sergeant Daniel Dembele goes A.W.O.L. so he can protect his family, but upon arriving in his village he finds that a brutal battle has already destroyed his ancestral home. He does manage to find a glimmer of hope though; a dying woman saw his son escape the devastation in a military convoy meaning the young sergeant still has a chance of being reunited with his progeny. Heading out towards the military base where he hopes to find his son, Daniel crosses paths with, and rescues, Brian. The pair quickly realize that working together is their best chance at making it to their families, but between them and their goal are miles of an unforgiving landscape ruled over by the living dead.

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{Living dead with very bright eyes for some reason}

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of slower moving zombies. While it’s true that a zombie with the ability to chase you down the street would be a bigger threat, a fast zombie loses the humanity that make zombies so frightening in the first place. A ferocious, quick moving, and animalistic zombie is just a generic movie monster that could easily be replaced by any number of other cinematic villains. Sure, there should be some level of viciousness, an instinctual aggressiveness that pushes the undead to search out and consume human flesh, but not to the point where a zombie is unrecognizable from any other type of creature that could be sent against the hero or heroes. I could go on and on here, and I know it’s true that in many cases, zombies, be they fast or be they slow, are mostly an excuse for lots and lots of gore, but at their heart, zombies are scary not just because they used to be us, but because they’re us once you strip everything away. They’re a sad reminder of humanity at its basest, and our zombies in The Dead do an amazing job of conveying that. They are completely devoid of any emotion, no snarling or excitement at the prospect of food, just a never-ending shamble to the next meal. The only time they ever show the barest hint of emotion was when they were just about to eat, and even that was a flash before they absent mindedly continued eating with the same haunting look on their faces, one that showed the total ambivalence of the undead. There is horror in that look, but there is also a great sadness to it as well, and what helps the viewer’s ability to hone in on the sadness is the fact that The Dead mostly avoids using large hordes, favoring small groups of zombies that quickly attract others instead. There are more than a few times The Dead avoids using zombie movie clichés (miles of desert replace the standard urban setting, very little dialogue, and zombies that are occasionally avoided instead of always attacked), but I think this was the most important as it allowed the viewer to get up close and personal with the undead. It also helps that the FX department knew what they were doing.

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{The way they’re able to switch between blank slate and hungry zombie is very impressive}

When the movie begins, we’re treated to a glimpse of Lt. Murphy walking across the desert, his only companion a cracking sound without a source. It soon becomes apparent that the cracking is coming from a lone zombie cresting the top of a sand dune, one with a broken leg making the sound every time it moves. It isn’t particularly gruesome compared to what’s coming later, just a broken bone shooting through the leg in two parts, but the attention to detail is so precise that it looks real. It looks so real that once you connect the creaking and the broken leg together, the sound becomes nauseating even without the visual. This was within the first five minutes of the movie, and the gore only got worse from there, but in almost every instance kept that realistic look, something especially horrifying during those scenes in which people are devoured. The FX team managed to do a wonderful job crafting some truly disturbing scenes, and they’re mostly done with practical effects. There was only one instance of CGI that I could catch, and even that was a combination of CGI and practical that looked fantastic and would have undoubtedly injured the actor had they decided not to use the blended effect. Because of this attention to detail, the zombies look fantastic themselves, sometimes thanks to a “less is more” attitude. They didn’t make these zombies look oozy or gross, they made them look like dead people with grotesque injuries, and I loved it. The only thing that bothered me were the contacts they used, contacts that were far too bright and made the zombies look like they were coming back from a rave.

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{For the most part, this is a horde in The Dead}

Many zombie movies have a common thread in that a lot of them feature group drama, but The Dead eschewed that cliché like they did many others. Brian and Daniel are the focus of the story, and the movie is about them trying to get back to their families, not them killing zombies, so while they do occasionally encounter others, they’re mostly on their own. Thankfully actors Rob Freeman (Brian) and Prince David Oseia (Daniel) have a good chemistry together and do a wonderful job making you emotionally invested in their survival. There are some very tense moments, and the tension comes from caring so much whether these two live or die. Even more impressive was the lack of dialogue in The Dead. The first thirty minutes are very nearly without any dialogue, and even after that dialogue is minimal, so much of the film’s success is on the performance of our two leads. Freeman and Oseia were up to the challenge though, pulling off two very emotional performances without having to say much.

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{Sergeant Daniel Dembele and Lieutenant Brian Murphy}

The Dead was an amazing movie with only two faults I could see, well, one fault and one oddness, the almost glowing contact lenses and an abundance of close-up shots showing people’s feet, but nothing that wouldn’t stop someone from enjoying this excellent addition to zombie cinema.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Howard J. Ford (The Dead 2: India, Never Let Go) and Jonathan Ford (The Dead 2: India, Offensive)

Starring: Rob Freeman (Ten Dead Men, Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud) and Prince David Oseia (Flight by Night, Nana Means King)

Written By: Howard J. Ford (The Dead 2: India, Never Let Go) and Jonathan Ford (The Dead 2: India, Offensive)

Released By: Indelible Productions, Latitude Films, and Anchor Bay Entertainment

Release Year: 2010

Release Type: Limited Theatrical Release

MPAA Rating: Rated R

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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2 Responses to The Dead

  1. pmloveland says:

    Sounds great. I’ll have to check it out.

    Like

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