You know, after eating the cinematic equivalent of undercooked crap like it seems I’ve done the last few weeks, at least to judge from my reviews, it’s good to settle down for something well-made and nourishing. Nothing fancy or new, you understand, but well-prepared and using ingredients I like.
And on a quiet Sunday morning, when I’m back from taking the dog to the park where she scampers about eating rabbit poo and ignoring my calls to chase after other dogs, it’s good to sit down with a bowl of cereal and watch a good-looking zombie movie. And The Ford Brother’s latest film, THE DEAD 2: INDIA certainly fits that bill. As the title suggests, this is a sequel to a 2010 movie from the same sibling team of film-makers, which Scott reviewed here. Scott, like myself, considered it an above-average zombie movie, which didn’t skimp on either the zombies (the shambling kind) or the gore and suspense. The Ford Brothers had filmed in Africa, and in doing so eschewed setting their movie in an enclosed place under siege, taking full advantage of the wide open, exotic landscapes, and the inherent threats they hold even without the dangers from revenants.
The sequel, subtitled simply INDIA, should give you a clue as to where it’s set, with the sequel taking place at the same time as the first one, as we see shots of Mumbai and an African freighter in dock, while a radio exposits about the outbreak of violence on the nearby continent. Before long we settle on one man, wandering through the streets seemingly in a daze, his vision blurry and watery; if you guessed that he’s suffering from more than heatstroke, move to the head of the class.Eventually he makes his way back home, where his family has been mourning him, so they’ll surely be glad to see his return…
We then cut to American electrical engineer Nicholas Burton (Joseph Millson, CASINO ROYALE), halfway up a wind turbine (in an impressive tracking shot typical of the Brothers), as he stops his repair work to call his girlfriend Ishani (Meenu Mishra) back in Mumbai, 300 miles away. Ishani is in a doctor’s office, distracted by the growing number of bite victims being brought in and the unrest on the streets, but still managing to inform Nicholas that he’s going to be a father.
Nicholas seems more stunned than pleased, but quickly recovers, though another call to his home office exposits that something is happening throughout the country, and that foreigners are being airlifted out of the country. However, his attempts to call back Ishani and warn her to barricade herself inside her home until he can return are thwarted by Ishani’s father (Sandip Datta Gupta), who freaks out when he learns that his darling daughter has gotten herself knocked up. Still, as he sees people being attacked in the streets, even he is smart enough to lock his doors and keep his daughter and himself safe – though not before revealing that Ishani’s mother (Poonam Mathur) was bit. Yeah, that’ll end well, I’m sure.
Nicholas is desperate to return to Mumbai, but his car is on empty, and the only shop for miles has got a gun, some paragliding equipment, and a hoard of zombies surrounding him. Nicholas barely manages to escape, starting off on the road back to Mumbai. Along the way he encounters a young orphan, Javed (Anand Krishna Goyal), who asks to accompany Nicholas, given that his whole village has been wiped out and all that. Nicholas is reluctant, but Javed demonstrates how useful he can be, not just by translating for him but directing him through the mountains and finding local food. But will their combined skills be enough to survive the ubiquitous dead?
There’s a lot to recommend THE DEAD 2, much of it identical to the first movie: superlative use of outside locations and cinematography, forgoing the usual claustrophobic siege scenario (though with the sequel we do get that as well, albeit to a lesser degree, as the film keeps returning to Ishani and her family in Mumbai. If anything, the Indian setting makes the threat more tangible, being a more populated area than the African veldt.
The zombie make-up is superior, along with the gore, nearly all of it non-CGI, and I’ll get behind anyone who prefers their zombies non-fast. The Ford Brothers put together some remarkably tense scenes, including a narrow escape by paraglider, and a harrowing scene involving a pair of car crash victims and an approaching hoard of the undead.
The lead actor here, Joseph Millson, makes a better impression than the leads in the first movie, portraying Nicholas as an ordinary guy who doesn’t instantly turn into Mr Badass Zombie Killer, and still feels the emotional anguish of what’s going on (and what he has to do). Although it might have been more interesting (and appear less Anglophilic) to have written a protagonist native to the setting, as Nicholas seems like the only white guy on the whole subcontinent, and the only one able to cope (somewhat) with what’s going on around him. Think SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE meets DAWN OF THE DEAD, have some young poor kid leading a ragtag bunch of orphans out of the ghetto and to safety, something like that – but what do I know? The other actors in comparison do what they can with their limited roles (and at least the little orphan kid isn’t some wisecracking Short Round type).
The movie also suffers from some of the faults you tend to find in many of these movies: zombies who are effectively lethal threats against anyone but the hero, a hero with a gun that never is seen being reloaded, people who seem incapable of defending themselves… and as I said before, there’s nothing new to the zombies, except for a scene where Ishani and her father provide an Eastern perspective on the typical “why is this happening to us?” conversation.
Maybe it was just the bad movies I watched prior to this, but this is definitely entering my Top Ten Horror for 2014. The movie is available on VOD and will come out on DVD on September 16 2014.
Directors: The Ford Brothers (also screenplay)
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 8 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 5 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy