Set in the vast desert landscape of Africa, THE DEAD is a zombie flick thatís more alike Romeroís early DEAD movies than anything thatís been released in the last decade. Not necessarily a zombie movie with an underlying social commentary, but one that treats the zombies in question seriously, and one that handles the genre with a whole new lens. The location has a lot to do with it, as itís not just an overrun city or suburb or mall or backwoods arena, but the village-laced and wildlife-filled Africa, an area thatís rough around the edge, constantly dusty, and the perfect place to depict a zombie apocalypse. Finally, a zombie flick that decides to do something different and set itself apart from the norm!
In many ways, THE DEAD is a zombie road trip movie, where the two main dudes (played by Rob Freeman and Prince David Oseia) are like nomads traveling across the dusty countryside in the one of the only working motor vehicles in Africa. But donít expect laughs or hijinks here, as every interaction with the zombies is gritty and filled with devastation. The zombie epidemic isnít a gag or an excuse for extreme gore as it is in many zombie flicks, but one thatís treated like an epidemic thatís slowly destroying the continent of Africa one villager at a time. And itís this handling of the zombies that makes THE DEAD such a refreshing take on the genre and why I broke my general rule about not liking zombie movies and really liking this one.
However, the flick isnít flawless, and while thereís a lot going right with it there are a few things that fall short--mostly the performance of Freeman. Some scenes Freeman delivers his lines with believability and talent, and other scenes he canít act to save his life. Itís a real mixed bag here, and probably the only complaint I have for the entire flickóthe lead should have gone to somebody who was more likable, talented, charismatic, and all-around more hero-like than what we have with Freeman, who is (more or less) none of the above. Hell, even Prince Oseia did a better job in the acting department than Freeman did, and heís a Prince!
The filmís momentum slows down towards the end with the whole last act going nowhere fast, like they lost the vision of what they were aiming for with 20 minutes left to go. Iím not saying that nothing happens as it nears the end, but it slightly loses its wayÖ if only a little bit.
Freeman and momentum aside, the gritty cinematography, the dramatic music, the zombie special effects, and the whole devastated atmosphere all add to making THE DEAD more than just your average zombie flick, but one that goes above and beyond the zombie status quo, and delivers something that will be remembered for years to come. And while itís not a perfect movie, itís still damn entertaining and it deserves serious props for stepping outside the box. I mean, a zombie movie set in Africaís outback? Whatís not to like?
Audio: Dolby Digital surround sound mixed in 5.1 stereo, rockin' the cool soundtrack, the zombie groans, and all those gunshots / blood splatter.
The Dead: Behind the Scenes: A montage of behind the scenes footage with the film's musical score playing in the background. Since it's all shot on location in Africa, it becomes quite apparent how down and dirty the filming process was. Some behind the scenes footage is transposed with the final scene playing along side-by-side, which is kind of cool. I prefer a little more structure to my behind the scenes featurettes, but as it's as rogue as the film itself (and only about 5 minutes long), I'll give this one a pass.
Deleted Scene: A lone scene featuring Freeman coming across another American doctor helping the locals. It's mostly throwaway and features no action, but it does offer an explanation as to what the zombie virus is and how to stop it.