The Dead. Its not the most creative of titles, reading it you pretty much know it's either going to be a James Joyce adaptation or a film about zombies. This time it's the latter and the stripped down title actually works, since this is pretty much a stripped down zombie film. Moving away from fast zombies, crowd pleasing style and "fun" gore gags, The Dead is bleak, numbing and even repetitive, an approach I actually enjoyed as it seems to get far closer than many films to the real horror of such events. It stuns with visuals and draws the heart with an inspired central heroic partnership, but by and large is many leagues away from the shallow silliness of all too many popular zombie films these days. Following at first the journey of Lt. Brian Murphy, wanting nothing more than to return home from a zombie outbreak stricken Africa, then Murphy and Sgt. Daniel Dembele, the latter trying to find his son, this is a quest film as much as horror, the journey as important as the grue. A first time feature for writers/directors/brothers Howard and Jonathon Ford (the latter also co handled cinematography with Jon Ford), The Dead moves at a dignified, steady paced, sporadically shot through with brief but intense bursts of tense violence heavy on head shots, laced with a growing respect and friendship between the two heroes and occasionally touched with poignancy shining in the gloom of the situation and ardour of the trek. Its skilfully handled, laconic stuff with a documentarians eye for the location (I never knew Burkina Faso was such a beautiful place), characters suitably rounded and likable and a powerful finale, overall it's a film with a punch. Rob Freeman as Lt Murphy plays things like a tough guy character actor of yore, impassive and resourceful determination with a human edge, while Prince David Oseia does equally well as Sgt. Dembele, carrying himself with authority and intelligence. As with any such film, the zombies are a major part of the experience, and The Dead succeeds nicely here. Make up effects are handled by Max Van De Banks and the zombies are simply portrayed, dead eyed, pallid, dirty and some bloodied, they move at a refreshing ominous creep as well, taking after the terrors of Romero pictures rather than any cheese of recent years. Gore is decent too, a realistic approach is taken over setting up lots of fun gimmicky kills, the headshots can get repetitive but there are a few other methods on display, a couple of which are real grisly crowd pleasers. By and large I had a fine time with this one and I hardly even expected too, having gone to watch it on a whim. The film does lag in the middle, stuttering a bit even in its already measured pacing, but it doesn't take too long to return to its groove. More irksomely, there are one or two undeveloped scenes which are too rapidly glossed over, as if time or the budget ran too short, there are some editing blips as well, though this may well have been intentional it still comes across a bit of a niggle. Still one of the best zombie films I've seen in a while though, well recommended.
Lieutenant Brian Murphy, is the sole survivor of the final plane out of Africa, which crashes somewhere off the coast of West Africa. The night before, a zombie horde attacked many villages in that area. Brian gathers supplies from the plane crash and travels by foot until he finds and fixes a broken-down truck in a village. When driving, the truck gets stuck in a pothole as zombies get closer. Daniel Dembele, a local African soldier gone AWOL in search of his son, rescues Brian from certain death. Daniel's wife had been killed in a zombie attack the previous night and a local military unit, heading north to a military base, had rescued his son. Daniel agrees to lead Brian to the nearest airport, a day's drive away, in exchange for his truck upon arrival for Daniel to use to find his son. At the airport, Brian attempts radioing for help using the air traffic tower's radio, but he receives no response. Daniel gets fuel for the truck and the two agree it would be best to stick together ...
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