The Dead (2010)
This film got a lot of buzz and a lot of press long before it ever got a distribution deal. The main reason? THE DEAD was filmed in Africa. Now there’s been a lot of films that have used stock footage of Africa in their films (I’m looking at you HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD; even though I love that film) where it looks as though they got the footage off the Travel Channel (albeit, a lot grainier). But THE DEAD was lensed in Africa and utilizes the diverse landscape of the Dark Continent to help with the tone of the film. We see all kinds of African terrains here: Barren deserts, rough and rocky mountains, small isolated little villages, and everything in between. But has all the buzz and press been warranted? Is THE DEAD simply a zombie flick with the gimmick of having been filmed in Africa?
Yes; THE DEAD is a zombie flick, and as far as zombie flicks go, this one doesn’t really add anything new to the canon. As the film begins we join the world after the zombie epidemic already broke out. Due to the ignorance and unwillingness of the powers that be not facing up to the fact that the dead were rising, the zombies’ ranks swelled to apocalyptic numbers, and they seem to be getting larger every day. The film takes place in Africa (obviously) where amongst all the chaos we focus on two characters: African soldier Daniel (Prince David Oseia; yes, he’s a real Prince) who abandons his post in order to head back to his small village to find his son, and Brian (Rob Freeman), an American Air Force engineer, who’s just trying to get back to North America and reunite with his family. The two men’s paths cross and they join up to help each other in their journey’s.
Soon after the men join forces they take to the road in a car Brian fixed up. This becomes your pretty standard road trip/zombie flick where the men come face to face with dangers at every turn. Besides being filmed in Africa and having some absolutely beautiful scenery, writers-directors Howard J. and Jonathan Ford don’t really do much with the plot. THE DEAD is smartly written and it doesn’t strive to be a cutting edge zombie flick out to re-define the genre. The zombies here are shambling, “Romero zombies” who instinctively wander around Africa looking to satisfy their unknown hunger. The Ford Brothers also don’t add in any racial tension at all. The two meet after Daniel saves Brian’s life and quickly form a bond. I’m cool with that but it felt like there was a level of tension missing from the flick.
In a smart move, the Ford Brothers filmed THE DEAD on 35mm film, giving it a gritty, realistic look that big budget, digitally shot films lack. The zombie make-up is well executed and a few of the zombies are some of the best looking zombies I’ve seen. What I also like is that there’s a ton of zombies in this film … a ton!! In fact there’s very few scenes in this movie that don’t have zombies somewhere in the shot. Whether the zombies are up in your face or off to the side or way off in the background, there’s zombies in practically every scene in the film. Think about ZOMBIELAND; the entire middle part of that flick is void of zombies, and the world has supposedly been overrun with them!!
I enjoyed this film but I don’t think all the buzz and rave reviews it’s gotten is justified. It’s definitely an above average zombie flick, but it’s not the best I’ve seen. We get some sharp writing and some really good zombie violence, but there’s also a lot of scenes that seem to drag on for a long time. I found myself checking my watch more than a few times during this one. But this shouldn’t be a ‘deal breaker.’ If you only watch this one for the landscape you’ll be greatly rewarded. Filmed in Burkina Faso and Ghana (both in Western Africa), the scenery is at times breathtaking and a really nice change from the typical zombie films lensed in bustling, claustrophobic cities.
So overall do I recommend THE DEAD? Absolutely. Well written with great looking zombies and landscapes, THE DEAD is a bit of a change for the genre. But due to a standard plot and some very slow parts in the middle of the film, don’t get your expectations up too high for this one. This is a solid zombie flick but it’s definitely not a ‘genre-definer.’ So don’t buy into the hype too much for this one, but if you love zombie flicks you’ll enjoy THE DEAD for sure.
Directors: Howard J Ford and Jonathan Ford (also the writers)
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 5 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer