Ahh, zombies. In many ways, speaking of the entertainment world, the end has already arrived and we are overrun with zombies. Zombie comics, t-shirts, movies, toys, and television shows. I used to love zombie movies. Hell, I wrote a zombie screenplay in college. The zombie craze reignited in the early 2000s with 28 Days Later and the remake of Dawn of the Dead. From then on, we’ve been fairly well saturated with the undead.
Can you get too much of a good thing? Yes, yes of course you can. Too much of anything will eventually kill you or drive you insane. What a stupid question. Ignoring that momentary lapse of stupidity, when inundated with zombie flicks to the point of not caring, is it possible to find anything worthwhile, anything new?
Enter The Dead. (That sounds pornographic!)
Zombie movies that work on any level most do one thing, and that is destroy zombies. There are around five legit on-screen zombie related deaths of people and a few more scattered around and off-screen to other causes, like a plane crash. In terms of the undead being redeaded, I’d say north of 75 zombies are dispatched.
The gore we see is mostly okay with a few highlights. It’s a zombie film, so we get a lot of bites and a lot of gunshots to the head. A guy goes on a machete rampage against a ton of zombies at one point, which is cool, and there is a great head smashing scene. Some of the bites are particularly vicious, with torn flesh.
You are especially fucked in a desert climate during the zombie Apocalypse. The desert will kill you on a normal day, one without roaming legions of the undead, so just imagine how complicated it gets when stragglers catch up to you and try to eat your face.
The Dead is a story of survival. Two men, one an American Army Engineer and the other a Some-Nameless-African-Country Sergeant, whose paths cross and they decide their odds of survival are better together. One is just looking to get out, the other, trying to find his son. If the desert doesn’t kill them first, the zombies just might.
There’s not much more to it than that. People try to cross the African desert and zombies shamble after them every now and again. What The Dead does right is take a more realistic survival approach for most of the film. Our heroes don’t engage every zombie they see. If a slow moving zombie appears, they’ll walk around it to save ammunition. If a zombie is in uniform, and thus likely carrying supplies, it’s killed and looted. Need a new desert friendly get-up? Kill a zombie who is better dressed than you.
It feels as though it was written by guys who were always yelling at the TV, telling stupid characters what to do – and most of the time, there’s very little to yell at the movie about. The characters behave pretty intelligently – to a point.
Both of these men, who are supposed to be trained Armed Forces officers, lack basic field craft when it comes to establishing shelter and perimeter defenses. A single strand of rope with a single tin can is not going to be a good warning system. Likewise, sleeping on the ground is stupid, even if there aren’t zombies. If you smartly decide to sleep in an elevated position, you don’t just balance on a tree branch and hope for the best. A lofted bed can be created quite readily.
Similarly, when gathering gas, the men attempt to fill a large container, which if it was fully filled, would weigh north of 400lbs. A smarter solution would be to get a small container of gas, then bring the car to the gas, fill it up, fill up the large container, and take it with you. Think boys, think!
The Dead is almost overwhelmingly quiet. There is little dialog and little intense action. There are some great, tense sequences, but these are often short and well spread out. While the zombies permeate the scenes and are almost always present, there is a sense of immediacy and danger that is often missing from the film. This may be the intent, in portraying a ‘realistic’ situation, but as a film, it suffers.
Overall, this is a fairly smart and somewhat fresh take on the zombie apocalypse. It’s worth watching if you’re a zombie fan or haven’t been overwhelmed with the genre yet, but make it a rental.