7 November 2011

Clarky's Review: The Dead

The Dead is a film, that along with Stake Land, Fin has been raving about for over a year, and whilst the latter almost lived up to its hype, The Dead falls quite a bit shorter. At first glance the film offers an interesting premise by setting the zombie outbreak in Africa. 

Horror films have often used their B-movie standings to offer us something that is often more than the sum of its parts. They often offer us an insight into our own fears but masquarade as something entirely different (Them, and its atomic ants, was an allegory for the fears of the US public of atomic war and communism, Frankenstein's sub text revolves around individuality and modern science, Dracula concerns itself with sexuality and national identity and King Kong is a parable on the great depression). Given the current socio-economic climate, the rising debt of Third World countries, the civil conflicts past and present throughout Africa and the rise of AIDS, this was a film that was ripe for allegory and a social subtext (which is not uncommon for zombie films when you look at Romero's back catalogue).

However, there is one mention of the soldiers, in this unnamed country, having a new fight on their hands and that is about all the political subtext that we are provided with. This a film that focuses purely on being a B-movie horror, and whilst there are some tense moments, it is somewhat lacking in this department as well and I can't help but feel that this was a wasted opportunity. There appears to be no real reason that this film is set in Africa apart from it being slightly more isolated.

There are some nice touches here. Some of the gore is quite impressive for the low budget and the look of the zombies is suitably unsettling, but the acting really holds this film back. Rob Freeman at Lt Brian Murphy is quite simply an awful actor and it makes the film trying to watch at times. Added to this we have a stilted script and some scenes that are totally pointless - the scene where he takes a baby off a bitten mother could have been very interesting. Instead The Dead skips over the moral dilemma and then has him pass over the child in the next scene himself. This should have been on the cutting room floor as it is totally pointless. By keeping this scene in then they should have at least shown the hardship of having to look after a baby during a zombie apocalypse. Instead the filmmakers seem to decide that introducing this new strand in the story was a mistake and dismiss it straight away.

In the final scenes we are also witness to one of he greatest coincidences in cinema as Lt Brian Murphy phones the military base. It is a scene that is laugh out loud ridiculous with some terrible scripting and even worse delivery. Unfortunately there is then a cheesy denouement to the film which seems somewhat out of place with the rest of the proceedings.

There is enough here to keep the horror fanatic interested and amused, but the casual viewer is most likely to find this a tiresome film.

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