The Dead (2010)
Director: Howard J. Ford
A white military engineer (Rob Freeman) trying to get out of a Zombie filled Africa finds himself stranded in the undead shit and he wants out. He eventually teams up with an African Sergeant (Prince David Ose) who's looking for his missing son. Together they fend off all kinds of Zombie attacks in the name of achieving their goals.
One thing that I love about attending Film Festivals is that you get to see tight movies that you often wouldn't catch via the usual channels. Now I've been made aware of lots of promising talent while kicking it at Fantastic Fest this year and you can add brothers Howard (writer/director) and Jonathan (writer/cinematographer) Ford to that future of horror list, cause they earned that spot with their bleak Zombie opus THE DEAD.
Before I get into the film, I just want to address this; THE DEAD has gotten somewhat of a back-lash for being racist in some circles. Racist? Really? Come on! Yes you got a white hero that kills African zombies but white people died in the film too! And our white hero befriended a strong and dignified black man and even saved a black baby at a certain point. So again. Racist? Come on! I didn't see it. Its off my knife, I'm done, lets move on! THE DEAD was a refreshing breath of putrid air for this horror fan, it was probably the best straight forward Zombie movie since the Dawn of the Dead remake. The flick was gorgeously shot, with jaw dropping cinematography and a brilliant use of the dread filled yet striking African locations. The dense forest, the vast desert, the imposing hills...awesome. The Zombies were thankfully of the old school variety, none of them sprinting Zombies on crack-cocaine here, these were lumbering living stiffs (who actually chewed the flesh they bit off... nice) and the Ford brother knew how to use their slow demeanor in their favor when it came to jacking up the anxiety. There's nothing creepier than a hero trying to get something done in a hurry while snail paced zombies inch towards him, slowly but motherf*cking surely. Brrrr. THE DEAD completely capitalized on that ploy throughout and it worked on me like a crack whore earning that crack by licking my bat. Did I just write? LOL! No wonder I'm not on Rotten Tomatoes...IT STAYS IN!
None of it would have worked this well if the effects weren’t up to snuff and THE DEAD hit pay-dirt with special effects wizard Max Van De Banks bringing in the goods with punch. His work was simply AMAZING. I had never heard of De Banks but in a fair world, his name will surface in more genre films as the years go by and well inch closer to death. Mucho talented hombre! The zombies were simple makeup wise (think early Romero) but effective. They actually looked like walking corpses as opposed to over the top monsters. The realistic looking gore blew me away as well in its execution. Very cool that they went for grounded and real as opposed to brash and unrealistic. It should be stabbed that this bad boy had some of the best squib shots I've seen in a while. If they were CG, huge props, cause I couldn't tell. Story wise, I was this one's bitch for the most part. This was a situational driven flick and I was right there with our two heroes as they struggled to achieve their objectives, using their brains, a machete, their truck and their guns to make it happen. On a human level, I quickly grew fond of the relationship Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman) and Sgt Daniel Dembele (Prince David Osei ) shared. Prince David Osei (I guess he's a prince somewhere) in particular blew me away via is low key yet very present aura and I expect him to go places. Dude owned! Add to that an eerie score that helped up the “fanboy chill” quotient, the Ford brother's knack at using slow motion for maximum whoopass, a handful of exciting well put together action scenes and an overall vibe of despair that served the movie right; and you get a Zombie movie, the way it should be done.
Alas, a couple of things got in the way in making THE DEAD a full on masterpiece, starting with Rob Freeman's uneven display. I had hard time pin pointing exactly what was wrong with it but sometimes he just wasn't selling me. I picked up on some ADR that may have worked against him and other times I don't know what it was. Funnily enough; his presence always felt genuine though. All that to say, something didn’t gel with Freeman, not sure what, but it hurt the film. Furthermore, the flick did lag in the middle section. A good 15 minutes could have been shaved off this one's ass in my opinion. Lastly, there were a couple of character moves that didn't make sense to me, specially the one having to do with Freeman's decision near the end as to Daniel. Yes I am being vague on purpose... don't want to spoil anything... but I was like whaaaa? Overall though, THE DEAD made for a mucho satisfying screening, it's a zombie movie done right with a corpsefull of talent behind the camera. I am pumped to see what the Ford brothers do next!
It got ugly, good ugly! We get flesh ripping, a face blown off, countless bullets to the head, a crushed noggin and much more! The gore was fantastic!
T & A
None of that here, not that kind of movie.
THE DEAD was a visually arresting, chilling and gripping effort with slow moving zombies that worked and a truckload of realistic gore that hit the spot. On top of that the score was aces and Prince David Osei knocked it out of the whore house! I hope to see him in more films in the future. Unfortunately, there was something about Rob Freeman's performance that didn’t work for me, some character moves eluded me and the flick should of shed 15 minutes if ya ask me; but on the whole, you in the mood for a strong, depressing, old fashion, brutal and gorgeous zombie flick? Tap THE DEAD and be happy!
Both Ford Brothers have cameos early on in the movie.