On October 29th or 30th I will be seeing a zombie picture shot in Africa and directed by Howard J. and Jon Ford simply entitled The Dead. I'll see it in a room full of horror fanatics as a part of the Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horror-thon, a yearly event that's namesake pretty much says it all. I'll be in Philadelphia, a large metropolis of a city seething with people. I will most likely eat at the Wawa across the street from the International House where the horror-thon will take place. There will also be people there not to mention food from many different places from around the globe. Throughout this entire experience dear reader I want you to know... without a shred of doubt in my mind... I will be waiting for African friggin' zombies to bum rush me from the dark slits of any number of ally ways or from the dark recesses of the theater auditorium. Tonight I watch it in a more subdued environment, but the heebie jeebies are right around that poorly lit corner. The Dead is hungry for new fans and it will most certainly get them in abundance.
Synopsis (because you want to know what's about to eat you, don't you?):
"An American mercenary, the sole survivor of a plane crash, has to run the gauntlet across Africa, battling with the living dead. Joining forces with a local military man, desperately searching for his son amongst the chaos, they fight together to survive, in the first Zombie Road-Movie set against the stunning backdrop of Africa."
The Dead has a powerful cast in both the protagonists and our beloved zombie brethren. Air Force Engineer Lieutenant Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman) gives an inspired, suspenseful performance as the last survivor of an ocean helicopter crash. His stone grimace is the face of war and of a life ever changed by the living dead. Freeman's performance is complimented by this African counterpart, Sergeant Daniel Dembele (Privince David Osei) a man who appears to be as a stoic soldier dedicated to his cause, but when his troop is annihilated by a zombie outbreak, he teams with Murphy to make sense of their common reality.
Gore hounds... you will be impressed and enjoy what Dan Rickard and Max Van De Banks have lined up for you. Plenty of splatter. The camera almost seems to pause right before our dear "zed" friends lose their faces. For example: zombie attack, gun shot, face close up of gun shot, splatter, pause, fin. Drippy, gooey blood with raunchy organs flying like streamers at a birthday party. It's a breath of fresh air when most independently produced zombie flicks are trying to develop their characters before they've even thought of how to make a head explode. Yes, it's storyline, storyline, storyline in indy horror... with one exception. Zombie films need to have the gore to back up the audiences expectation. Look for the sound effects during bite sequences. You'll be looking for that bag of Ruffles the whole time.
The Dead might not be for certain viewers. There are some pretty wild camera shakes and jump edits that leave you feeling disjointed and perhaps slightly nauseated. We all like to get our vomit bag ready at a good gore flick, but not because we feel like we're on an old wooden roller coaster. The Dead is not a found film or faux documentary piece; it's just got some camera shake used to accentuate motion. You might not like that. We'll be sure to feed this cadre of film goer to the zombies first. While the the underlying social criticism isn't overly apparent or pronounced it may make some audiences feel like their being preached to. I'm not entirely sure if those of you who read the Sprayer are sensitive to socio-political subtext, but if you are, you may want to wait for the Blu-Ray and skip directly to the suspense filled zombie attack sequences.
As was stated previously, this movie is in the vain of the Romero zombie films. Socially conscious. Provocative. Ground breaking. Gory. What we are seeing is the successor to George Romero if the Fords will allow themselves to take that great leap forward. Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Romero's newest work Survival of the Dead are all fine films in their own right to be certain. When Romero started making films he was in his twenties; Night of the Living Dead was made when he was twenty eight in 1968. His perspective now is a valid one, but it is not necessarily the perspective of the modern day, socially aware film goer. The Dead provides that perspective in ways that films like 28 Days Later and even Shaun of the Dead aspire and nearly attain. The Dead renews the covenant that Romero made with horror fans when he made Night of the Living Dead and then succeeded it with movies that challenged the status quo. Africa is the next great natural disaster if it hasn't become it already and if we don't act fast.
With a limited theatrical release coming October in select cities across the U.S., it's best to start looking for your venue of choice now. Mine will be in Philadelphia with an overabundance of people and all the time looking over my shoulder... waiting to become the cure for world hunger.