“The Dead” Review
The Dead gets off to an intense start, showing a zombie outbreak at its most gruesome in a small African villiage. With a populous that has virtually no means of fighting back effectively, it is a particularily brutal scene that ranks among the most realistic depictions of a zombie invasion captured on film (if the term ‘realistic’ can really be applid to such things).
But for a film that starts out with such viscerality, The Dead, written and directed by the Ford Brothers, actually turns out to be a quieter, more introspective film than most of today’s horror offerings.
The film follows a stranded American Air Force engineer, Brian, trying to get home, and an African deserter, Daniel, who has abandoned his post to search for his son. The two cross paths and try to work together to achieve their respective goals, but an awful lot of zombies will get in the way.
But for all its moments of intense violence and zombie face-eating, a good portion of the movie dwells on the consolidative effects of the invasion on one of the most war-torn and advesarial regions on the planet, both on a large scale with the surviving African population, and on a smaller scale with Brian and Daniel.
But more importantly, the zombies are damn scary.
These zombies aren’t fast, or clever, but they are an unnerving omnipresence thoughout the film. Most of the time they aren’t attacking. They are just…. there. Standing around. Shuffling past on the outer fringes of seemingly every frame. It creates a kind of sad hopelessness that follows the protagonists on their trek, and permeates quietly into the stark and beautiful scenary of the African desert.
But this slow burn method of terror only works if the action backs it up when it does occur, but here it really does. The sequences when the zombies do attack are bloody and scary and usually unexpected. And the effects are as good as you’ll see in movies with much bigger budgets.
Sure, the more emotional scenes get a bit heavy-handed, and there is some questionable logic by the characters on occasion, but in a genre crowded with entries that aspire to nothing more than to one-up their predecessors’ gore factor (and usually fail at that) The Dead is a legitimately original zombie movie with a good heart and great, bloody zombie action.