Review: The Dead (Blu-ray)

2012/02/16 22:21:04 +00:00 | Jonathan James

Watching The Dead reminded me of how much zombie movies have changed since George Romero's original Dead trilogy. It’s not like I wasn’t aware that the Resident Evil series is the polar opposite of Dawn of the Dead, but I attribute some of Romero's success to the time those films were made. The Dead shows that it’s still possible to pull off a Romero-esque zombie movie in this day and age.

Filmed on location in Africa, The Dead follows a US military engineer who is stranded in the middle of a zombie outbreak after his plane crashes. Eventually, he teams up with a local soldier who is searching for his missing son. This movie follows these two as they search for supplies and try to avoid being eaten in a world overrun by the dead. Zombies in The Dead follow the Romero rules, so we don’t know the cause of the outbreak, the zombies are slow moving, and getting bitten causes you to become one.

When I reviewed The Thing (2011), I noted that it felt like a fan film. You could tell that the filmmakers loved Carpenter’s movie, but instead of keeping it in the tradition of John Carpenter, they made a carbon copy that lacked soul. With The Dead, it’s obvious that Howard and Jonathan Ford are zombie fans that love the Romero movies, but tell their own story. Being zombie fanatics, there are a number of elements in the story that writers less familiar with the sub genre may not have thought about.

This is a movie that isn't in a hurry and takes a more realistic approach to surviving a zombie outbreak with limited supplies. It’s interesting to watch the characters scrounge for clothes, ammunition, and water, as they defend themselves from zombies. However, there is also this fantastic landscape to stare at and social commentary that keeps this from being another mindless zombie movie. Casual horror fans may find The Dead a bit slow paced, but zombie fans will appreciate that this movie takes its time and gives us a little bit extra.

The zombie make-up effects are impressive when you consider that they were working with a relatively small budget. Comparing it to the zombies from The Walking Dead, you wouldn’t necessarily say that these zombies are outstanding, but they hold up and are convincing. The Romero Dead films all had standout zombies and certain gore scenes that left you talking. While there is plenty of gore in this film, I do think they missed the mark when it came to unique or featured zombies.

As I mentioned above, this movie was filmed in Africa and the cast and crew ran into a number of issues in the volatile area, including muggings, heat exhaustion, and illness. At least all of that was worth it, because they picked a number of great locations and the landscapes shown in this film are beautifully shot. The new setting makes for a refreshing change and very rarely do you see zombie movies taking place outside in broad daylight for the majority of the movie.

The Dead was released this week on Blu-ray and DVD. Both versions contain a single deleted "doctor" scene, commentary with Howard and Jonathan Ford, and a behind the scenes featurette. You get an obvious bump in quality with any Blu-ray, but in this case I’d especially recommend it to get a better look at the African landscapes.

All in all, The Dead is a superb zombie film that will be appreciated by any avid fan of zombie movies. Your casual horror fan may want more action and more gore, but I suggest that you take the time to appreciate what the Ford brothers have done here. Zombie movie production is so common these days and The Dead stands out as something special.

Film Score: 4/5 Disc Score: 3.5/5