Other than the horror-comedy sub-genre, the zombie genre is flooded to the point where I roll my eyes at the announcement of a new BREAKTHROUGH/ICONIC undead film. I personally believe that up till now, 28 Days Later was the last, great zombie film. It brought some new elements in, it was ruthless, and it was all about the survivors. There have been some decent releases since then but there hasn’t been any real competition. Low budget filmmakers seem to love zombie films, as the market flooded with films that just promised gore and nudity. I am not against those factors but I want an engaging experience that will get me invested in the outcome of the characters. The last zombie film I watched was Bloodlust Zombies, and that was the wall for me, I was done with these shit films but there was a light at the end of the tunnel. That light was, The Dead.
I didn’t know much about this film upon viewing it, and looking at the title I got extremely nervous. Let’s face it, The Dead is one generic title that only evokes bad memories of past cinematic disasters. If a horror film has the word “dead” or “blood” in it, it’s probably complete garbage. After the first few minutes of The Dead, I was hooked. By having the locale set in West Africa, it created a unique setting. The opening shots gave me the notion that this was not going to be the guns-blazing zombie film that’s been done so many times before. Thank you, Ford Brothers.
The story focuses on a white guy (color is actually important here, stick with me) by the name of Brian Murphey whose military plane goes down while trying to escape from the zombie infested area of West Africa. Washing up on shore, he grabs supplies, shoots a few zombies, and heads into the wilderness. A black man named Daniel Dembele, works for the African military but is now on a solo mission to find his son who was taken from his family’s destroyed village. Both Brian and Daniel’s paths cross, they then set out across the desert in search of different things (Brian needs a plane, Daniel wants his son). What develops from their encounter is a touching and tender moment filled journey that shows people just trying to help one another out.
First off, old school zombies are back! These Romero-styled zombies walk very slowly and only lunge when they are near some fresh brains. This touch is refreshing considering every zombie has been running at high speeds due to crazy fevers since 28 Days Later. The reason for the outbreak is not discussed in The Dead, and I’m quite alright with that. I don’t need any explanation at this point, something happened, science went wrong, and people started eating each other. The locale is set in West Africa, so the movie has a nice look to it (the desert, open spaces, etc.), very different from the urban sprawls that I am so use to seeing.
The Dead avoids most cliches as well, by not having running, virus infected zombies and even though there is a racial element to the movie, it’s not motivated by black/white tensions. The military is always shown as controlling and looking out for themselves in other films, but in The Dead, they actually want to help and try to save what’s left of Africa. There are zero rivaling factions or psychopaths running around to take advantage of those who are less fortunate in this mess. I appreciate that, you HAVE NO IDEA how tired I get of writers shitting all over the human race. Going back to the racial elements of the film, if there is any agenda, it seems the script is a discourse on Marxist ideals (people working together, classes are gone, etc.).
There’s a strong passive nature to The Dead that separates it from most of the titles out there. The dialogue is sparse but when it’s introduced, you hang onto the words because they mean something. There’s very little filler chit chat going on, or wasted time on pointless conversations. The characters of Brian and Daniel hardly talk until the end when they begin to be connected and realize how similar they are. The characters lives are parallel in that, each has a family they need to get to, they are military men, and they are softer than they appear. The film is not even peppered that much with a score either, making many scenes VERY quiet. So little dialogue and little music adds for some purely aesthetic scenes. You, as the viewer, have to follow the expressions of the characters and take cues from the camera angles. This requires you to stay focused and keep you eyes glued to the screen.
Some will inevitably call the film “dull” or “boring” because it’s not a in-your-face horror film intent on throwing buckets of blood around. If you’re like me, and you like a slow-burn film, this is for you. I am glad that a smart zombie film can still be made, I just really enjoyed everything about The Dead. There are some tender moments thrown in that tug at your heart strings. The Dead is not filled with the typical bullshit, the poor humor, the nauseating performances, or overtly preachy political messages. While there are Marxist ideas thrown in, the movie will not try to convince you of anything.
Go check it out if you can, it seems that they are having distribution issues. I am hoping maybe BD Selects grabs it or Magnet. I consider The Dead to be the best zombie movie since 28 Days Later, many may not agree, but then again, you’re entitled to your opinion.
I am not posting the trailer, it hardly does the film justice. Just go see it.