Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Dead (2011) DVD Review

Image: Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment

Dirs: The Ford Brothers (Distant Shadow, Mainline Rush)
Cast: Rob Freeman, Prince David Oseia, David Dontoh
UK, 2011

Reason to see: Zombie film!

I love that there are so many zombie films that we can have ones of all different tones, shapes, sizes and settings. The Dead certainly takes a new bite into the genre taking a survivalist tone and unique setting against the beautiful landscape of Africa. It's amazing how it pairs the overwhelmingly vast location with the encroaching zombie presence; providing the audiences with the conflicting, powerful dynamic of nowhere to go and no way to get there. And direction and movement is key in The Dead as it also plays as a journey film, and at times a road movie where you never know who is going to come to cross paths. Except the zombies. There always seems to be more zombies. Working against the zombies we have Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman), a resourceful survivor whom persistently is encountering zombies which begs the question on whether or not he was lucky or unlucky to make it so far. We also have Sargent Daniel Dembele (Prince David Oseia); a father in search of his son among the anarchy with the undead who have arisen. I actually really enjoyed the characters of Murphy and Daniel, the challenges they faced, and again how the audience only gets pieces of their stories which allows for a welcome amount of mystery piquing curiosity of what drives them and what they are capable of, or likely to do, given the extreme circumstance then are put under.

That allowance to fill in the back stories is an interesting and re-occuring choice in The Dead, as it's pretty much a given that the audience will fill in the zombie blanks without relying on the film getting all explain-y. We know what zombies are, so they can instead use that time to create more atmosphere, zombie action and gorgeous visuals. And we get lots of all of those, the effects and gore pores off the screen. It's actually quite unnerving to have the spectacularly gorgeous visuals and setting against the horror of the zombies and gun fire & violence to survive against them. I completely wasn't expect that, and it does feel like a bit of social commentary which for fans of the genre know that social commentary does often go hand in hand with zombie. There was a very strong core to The Dead, and it really played the survivalist card with a strong sense of humanity even with all of the challenges faced. The pacing may be a bit slow for some more action-centric zombie fans, but the effects should keep any horror fan happy and they are gooey and bloody to boot. Personally, I absolutely fell in love with both the setting and the score, and could watch any scene that had the beautiful sky in the background over and over again. The DVD also features a really great audio commentary by The Ford Brothers who share many of the challenges they faced while filming, which really drives home just how hard it can be to make a film and the incredible things people can endure to get their work on screen to entertain us. It's a great extra to check out for a great new take on the genre. Overall, The Dead is a very interesting, and horrifically beautiful, addition to the zombie genre.

DVD Extras:
  • Audio Commentary with writer/producer/director Howard J Ford and writer/director of photography/co-director Jon Ford on the harshness of the locations, the challenges in making the film from financial to health to safety (of which there are many, and many of them were rather serious), different filming locations from The Sahara Desert to England, their cameos in the film, the importance and choice of the adventure tone to the film, casting the main characters and the oodles of zombie extras, shout outs to cast & crew, the juxtaposition of the horror against a beautiful landscape, intentional choices against what have become tropes of the genre, reactions from crowds at screenings, zombie films they love and the early 70's feel of the movie.
  • Behind-the-Scenes (5 minutes) includes juxtaposition of several filming set ups & shoots vs final result; the cast & zombies chilling out, some direction & make up application, one of the locations that had a major challenges in the film, all set to the beautiful score of the film.
  • Deleted Scene (1 scene, 2 minutes) interesting scene that eludes to the 'why this happened'; although the directors chat about the choice to include or not include the history of this in the film.
The Dead (2011) is available on DVD as of February 14, 2012. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it, but wanted to love it
I'll watch it again
I'd recommend it fans of zombie/survivalist films

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© Shannon Ridler, 2012

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