It’s confession time. No no, not for religious reasons – it’s a personal thing. Come closely and I’ll whisper it to you… don’t be afraid. Yours truly is ambivalent to zombies.
Despite the fact that I occasionally dabble in piratical zombification, zombies don’t really register on my pop-culture barometer. It’s not that I hate them, or think they’re done to death – it’s just that they don’t grab me. *ba dum dum pshh* An education junkie, I’m always finding new things to interest me – new things to learn about. Zombie movies interested me back when they were new, but other than films that lovingly parody them or those that tweak the story by adding a new wrinkle (fast zombies! rage virus! group survival tale against zombie backdrop!) – more often than not I’ll scan right past them.
Which is why I’m delighted to tell you about the nightmarish indie The Dead. Shot entirely in Africa, the Ford Brothers picture doesn’t so much add a new wrinkle to the zombie plague on film. What it brilliantly does instead is move the age-old, Romero-style zombie picture to the bright, sun-scorched, and decidedly unique landscape of modern-day Africa.
Fear not, dear readers – The Dead is not related to a certain video game from a few years back. There is no hint of racism here – you feel deep sympathy for the local populace and want desperately for their survival. There isn’t even a heavy-handed political agenda – the film’s overriding message is one of family, friendship, and respect. Two military men, stranded American – Lt. Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman), and AWOL local – Sgt. Daniel Dembele (Prince David Oseia) – traverse the overrun African plains and desert to get to safety. Both men share the same goal of getting back to their children, and logically decide that traveling together will give them better odds. The Dead is part road picture, part old-school zombie flick, and part social parable.
It’s also beautiful. I can’t remember a zombie picture this gorgeous – warm tones, wide-open landscapes. It’s breathtaking – which makes the slow-moving, broken, bloody, and shambling zombies that much more terrifying. They are in nearly every scene – shuffling slowly everywhere in the background. Sometimes you can only hear them, sending uncontrollable shivers right up my spine. Let me be blunt – this is the first zombie picture in decades that made my skin crawl and gave me nightmares.
As great as it is, The Dead is uneven in spots – most notably what felt like a few out-of-left-field scenes toward the end. While Oseia is so good, you’ll be asking why he hasn’t been in more major releases – Freeman is less convincing every now & then. Considering what the man went through making the film though – I’m giving him a complete pass, and it’s not like he’s bad (he sells the important final moments). Hell, the difficulty the entire production team went through making The Dead is so outrageous it almost deserves a film itself – there’s even a book. Don’t let any minor beefs keep you from seeing this terrific film – no matter what your current zombie interest may be.
The Dead is available on many cable provider’s On-Demand services, as well as available for purchase on Amazon and other retailers.