Deadlands: The Rising

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When a terrorist attack leads to the rise of the living dead, friends Brian and Gary must trek through a small town full of zombies while Brian’s wife Michelle protects their young son.

I will have you know that protecting your child from a zombie is hardly something to worry about, and I am offended that cinema would tell such a horrible lie. I mean sure, there’s some less than stable zombies who gave up caring where their food comes from a long time ago, but most of us would never think of hurting a child. What would be the point? There’s not a lot of meat, they run so fast, and a child’s tears are something very few sentient creatures can ignore. Zombies aren’t monsters after all, undead, flesh starved ghouls who will tear a full-grown human apart in ways that would make lions shudder in disgust yes, but not monsters. Besides, why would you want to eat a smallish creature when you can wait until it grows to full size and have a full meal? We might not be monsters, at least by our definition, but we are certainly heartless when it comes to matters of practicality. You should be aware though that eating the parent of a child is a lot less morally ambiguous for us, fair warning.

On October 8th, 2008, friends Brian and Gary planed a day of drinking and shooting guns, not yet knowing that six months down the line would find humanity nearly extinct and Brian’s wife Michelle thinking back to the events of that day. It started off like any other day, Gary and Brian went out while Michell stayed with their young son Connor, but a blinding light and a vaporized city soon changed that. A terrorist attack has leveled metropolitan areas around the country, and untold numbers are dead, many of whom don’t seem to realize it. Zombies are pouring out of every city affected, and one of those cities happens to be near the hometown of Brain, Gary, and Michelle. With the town falling apart and the living dead filling the streets, Brian will do all he can he can to make it home to his wife and child while Michelle protects Connor, but the undead are growing in number, and survival is becoming less certain by the minute.

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{This film is not affiliated with any other similar titles}

Sixty-two minutes, that’s the runtime for Deadlands: The Rising, and that includes around seven minutes of credits, yet it takes this brief film over twenty minutes before a single zombie comes on screen. I understand a story takes some set up, I understand this was director Gary Ugarek’s first film, but I don’t understand why you’d make nearly a third of your film about yourself and a friend improvising wooden dialogue. That’s what the first third of this film is, Gary (also played by Gary Ugarek, the characters have the first name of the actor playing them) and Brian (played by Brain Wright, see what I mean) talking about Gary’s divorce or Brian’s son and playfully insulting one another. Now regardless of my next sentence, twenty minutes of nothing in an hour movie seems to me like a long time, but I can almost accept it for a flub and move on save for one problem, the banter between the pair of men. I can’t say for certain that it’s improvisation, but it comes across extremely unnatural, and the way they fumble about verbally is cringe-worthy to watch, but that’s not what makes me feel like it’s improve, it’s the fact that their performance isn’t nearly as bad once you get past that twenty-minute mark. Don’t expect Robin Williams and Jonathon Lithgow here, but I’ve seen much worse. Michelle Wight (see if you can guess which character she plays) does a good job as well once the movie finally starts to pick up, but getting past that first twenty minutes felt like a chore, even more so when you get to the pre-zombie buildup where a bunch of people stuck in traffic complain about being stuck in traffic, and this brings me to my second major problem, most everyone else in the movie.

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{This car gets way too much screen time}

Before I make this complaint, let me just say that per Ugarek, most of the other people we run into, the zombie fodder and the zombies alike, are townspeople that wanted to help him make his movie, and I think it’s very cool that the town came together like that for a zombie film. Waving to a neighbor is considered going above and beyond where I live, even if you’re among the living, so I do like hearing about a place that would come together, but as a guy watching a zombie movie it was awful. These are the kind of performances that are used as parody in films about bad actors, performances that were very difficult to watch. The zombies act more drunk than dead and often forget to hold their breath, terror on the human actors looks closer to minor annoyance, and some of them were way too excited, though the lady who enthusiastically screamed “What is this” like she was entering the land of gold and diamonds instead of being stuck in a traffic jam was awesome. I can understand an independent film director being unable to mortgage his Malibu home to hire Anthony Hopkins, but there comes a point where you should realize that saving money isn’t worth chasing viewers away. I think these people deserve a shout out for being kind enough to take time out of their lives to help a zombie lover make his movie, but the performances were about as bad as you can get, and Ugarek should have tried to fix that problem instead of releasing an inferior film.

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{When a little girl comes up to tell you about her sick mother is not the time to complain about directions either}

For all its failures, including gaffes like Gary checking his invisible wristwatch or confusing details like why the pair of men waited several hours after the explosion to decide on going home, there was one area where I thought the film did a good job, the FX work. They didn’t overreach with the zombie make up, and while I know that sounds like an insult, it’s anything but. They knew what they could do, and stuck to that, creating an undead look that wasn’t drastic, but drove the point of them being walking corpses home. The gore doesn’t quite live up to the disturbing promises of the pre-film warning, but what few scenes of bloody violence and carnage do happen feature some decent looking mutilations and some clever camera tricks to make the bloodshed look worse through implication.

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{It wasn’t anything spectacular, but I was impressed}

I really wanted to like Deadlands: The Rising, but there were just far too many problems for an enjoyable viewing experience. I’d say I wasn’t going to watch the sequel to this, but I think we both know that’s not true.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Gary Ugarek (All in the Game, Deadland 2: Trapped)

Starring: Gary Ugarek, Brian Wright, Michelle Wright, and Connor Brandt

Written By: Gary Ugarek (All in the Game, Deadland 2: Trapped)

Released By: Wetnwildradio Films and Tempe Entertainment

Release Type: Limited Theatrical Release

Release Year: 2006

MPAA Rating: Unrated

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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