Friday, April 20, 2012

The Dead (2010, Blu-ray Review)

Director(s): Howard J. and Jonathan Ford
Cast: Robert Freeman and Prince David Oseia
Anchor Bay / Region A / Rated R / 1.78:1 Widescreen / English Dolby TruHD 5.1 / English Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired / 105 minutes / PURCHASE

Disk Extras: Filmmaker’s Commentary with Howard J. and Jon Ford / Unearthing The Dead: Behind the Scenes / Deleted Scene
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Shade Rupe is a genre journalist, PR Specialist, author of the incredible book Dark Stars Rising and Acquisitions Advisor for independent film distribution company Global Cinema Distribution. While on his cinematic travels, he happened upon an indie zombie movie by British film makers The Ford Brothers, Howard J. and Jonathan simply titled The Dead. I know what you’re thinking; who the fuck are The Ford Brothers and who gives a shit about another zombie flick? The Ford Brothers are a writer/director tandem with a couple of British movies under their belt like the crime action of Mainline Run from 1994 and 2000′s suspenseful Distant Shadow. Honestly, I haven’t been excited about a zombie movie in… shit… I don’t know if my memory is that bad or the undead genre has just become a rehashed bore-fest. But I took a chance with this one, trusting Shade’s judgement and I’ll be damned if he didn’t pick a gem.
Lt. Brian Murphy, an Air Force engineer stationed off of the west coast of Africa, hops aboard a plane set to get the Hell out of Dodge (actually Ghana) after the village he is living in is overrun by ambling zombies bent on chomping on anything with a pulse. Unfortunately one of his group has been bitten and turns into one of the rabid gut-munchers and causes the plane to crash leaving only Lt. Murphy as a survivor. He washes up on shore and soon faces an army of African zombies as he desperately seeks to find civilization. On his trek through the harsh deserts and jungles of the Dark Continent, he meets African Army Sgt. Daniel Dembele who has just found his village decimated by the savage walking dead including his wife, so now he must stay alive to find his son. Murphy and Dembele form a reluctant team to help each other stay alive long enough to find their respective loved ones. How far has this zombie plague stretched? Will they be safe when they get to their destination?
The Ford Brothers have created something special here. Not only is it a unique twist on the stale zombie genre, but the story and characters are compelling and real. This is not your daddy’s ridiculous, gut-munching cheese-fest with piles of unrealistic pig intestines being pulled from a horribly fake body cavity. The Dead is a beautifully shot, haunting and visceral film, both emotionally and physically. The Fords took advantage of the ruggedly scenic vistas of war-torn Africa and created a harsh landscape of terror. Not only do the two military men has to deal with hundreds, if not thousands of famished zombies, but the terrain itself, along with the sweltering, unrelenting heat that swears to swallow them up. The real key to the film’s success is its roots in reality. As a viewer, I was sucked in to this real-life infestation of animated corpses whose genesis is never explained, they just… are. The two leading men, Robert Freeman (Lt. Murphy) and Prince David Oseia (Sgt. Dembele), turn in fantastic performances as people fighting for not only their lives, but more importantly, hope.
On this continent where the genocide of millions of people is happening, I can’t help but think The Dead may be some sort of political allegory much like the underlying socioeconomic current in the early Romero Dead movies. Roving hordes of flesh eaters who brutally massacre whole families and communities isn’t much different from the sickening realty in that forgotten area of the world. The Dead is not only a deadly serious and graphically violent movie packed with tension, dread and heart-stopping scares, it packs an unexpected emotional punch rarely found in zombie flicks, or horror movies for that matter. The soundtrack consisting of tribal beats, music and the inescapable buzz and chirps of locusts and other insects really sets your teeth on edge throughout. When you finally reach the journey’s end, you are treated to a terribly ominous yet somehow hopeful climax that only this movie could pull off. This is truly a movie that needs to be seen and appreciated for already being a classic, visionary horror film.

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