by: S. Scott Stanikmas – Senior Staff Writer
I’m a huge sucker for zombies. Comic books, TV shows, movies – like many I just can’t seem to get enough of the undead. This being the case I’m always on the lookout for something new and fresh being done in the genre. So when I heard about the independent film The Dead that was released a few years ago I was intrigued. Zombies in the African brushland? This was something new.
Written and directed by The Ford Brothers (Jon and Howard), the film follows your basic “escape the zombies” formula but it does it in a locale that hasn’t been seen in zombie films by many American audiences. Taking place in the savannahs and plains of West Africa, the film follows USAF engineer Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman) after his plane home crashes in an undisclosed area on the west side of the Dark Continent.
Brian’s main goal now is to find an alternate way home. But that is easier said than done when the walking undead impede his mission. Now reaching the local military base and radioing for help and evacuation is literally a life-and-death struggle as hordes of zombies and the harsh and unforgiving terrain all work against him.
While not a new concept in the slightest It’s the way the story unfolds that separates this from the herd. The Ford Brothers bring back the old-school shamblers, which in these instances is a lot scarier than a pack of faster flesh-eaters. The sight of one or two zombies off in the distance doesn’t seem too scary. But then two become five become twenty, and with nowhere to hide and weariness setting in these non-stop death machines suddenly turn into more of a threat than you’d like.
One particular scene shows Murphy trying to change a tire. He sees a couple of zombies in the distance and thinks he has plenty of time. But the lugnuts won’t budge. Panic sets in as the zombies lurch closer and closer. He does manage to get away but starts to realize that even at a slow pace these creatures are a real menace.
The acting didn’t win any Oscars but is serviceable for what the film calls for. Rob Freeman carries the majority of the film well, delivering a performance that, while not wooden, was devoid of some essential emotion that would have helped me connect with him.
The scenery and cinematography was beautiful. The drab and dusty African brush really popped and
gave the film an otherworldly flair. While most audiences are used to seeing zombie films set in major metropolitan areas or dense woods the vast expanse was a real jolt to the ocular sense. You could literally see every zombie coming and because there is nowhere to hide they can see their next meal – you!
The Dead was released back in 2010 and was popular enough to warrant a sequel. The Dead: India came out in 2013 and took the same basic premise of “dodge the zombies” from the African coast to the densely populated country of India. The Ford Brothers returned for writing and directing duties on the sequel.
A film like this does exactly what zombie films should do, and that’s give viewers hope after hope that our protagonists will make it out and somehow survive the oncoming hordes of walkers only to pull that hope out from under the audience like a magician deftly pulling a tablecloth while leaving the fine china undisturbed.
Delivering creeping terror and slow burn horror, The Dead is a breath of fresh air (or would that be fetid air?) in the zombie genre. This film is recommended viewing for anyone’s midnight movie sessions this Halloween season.