The Dead (Movie Review)

I wouldn’t be caught dead – or living dead, for that matter – in sub-Saharan Africa. When it comes to Places I Want to See Before I Peg Out, most of Africa is not at the bottom of the list… it’s not even ON the list. [1]

(Colour me ‘could not care less’)

And this, to me, is what makes the 2010 zombie film The Dead so intriguing. It is set in what is basically a hell-hole… and then makes it even hell-holier!

The usual format for a modern apocalyptic zombie movie is ‘the zombies rise and civilization falls.’ So… what happens in a place where modern civilization has already collapsed long before the zombies arrive… or has never really taken hold in the first place?

(A hell-hole has just become even more hell-holish!)

Imagine living in a village of mud huts and thatched roofs in a land of grinding poverty and chronic malnutrition, where government, law and order simply do not exist, where one tribal group hacks another tribal group to death with machetes, where HIV/AIDS runs rampant, where the ebola virus  kills its victims in the grossest possible way imaginable within hours of infection. And then add into the mix wandering hordes of the living dead, hungry as can be. And they’re looking for you… ’cause you’re what’s on the menu!

That, in a nutshell, is why I like The Dead. Things don’t go from blissfully unaware suburban barbecue heaven to ‘WTF?!’ (à la Dawn of the Dead). Things go from bloody awful to truly effen horrific!

OK, here’s the deal…When the last evacuation flight out of war-torn Africa crashes off the coast, an American Air Force Engineer washes up on the shore as the sole survivor. He meets up with a young soldier. They are simple men with a simple mission… to get back to whatever family they may or may not have left. That’s it. That’s the plot. And as George A. Romero knows full well, that’s all the plot you need, really.

(Two guys about to embark on the world’s most depressing road-trip)

Mayhem ensues when… the dead are returning to life and attacking the living, turning a little corner of hell into an even darker, more horrible corner of hell. But unlike the ‘normal’ western urban or suburban landscape of malls and city streets, The Dead is set against the stark and bleak beauty of Africa. And that is what makes this zombie apocalypse truly scary. There are no stores were you can ransack a month’s worth of food and supplies. There are no local police stations or gun shops were you can stock up on arms and ammo. There are no cars or trucks or highways to effect your escape as you ride off into the sunset, watching zombies eat your dust in the rear-view mirror. You’re stuck out in the middle of Baboon Butt, Africa and you ain’t got squat with which to defend yourself against the shambling zombies.

Oh and by the way, these are the old-school Romero-style slow zombies, thank goodness! Zombies the way the Almighty intended them to be. And they are scary… I mean genuinely scary. Not just gross and disgusting the way many zombie movies portray them. People these days are revolted by zombies and hate zombies… but zombies haven’t been truly scary in a very long time. The Dead brings that all back.

(R0b Freeman as Lt. Brian Murphy)

My two cents… the scenery is breathtaking in what sometimes can be a very forbidding way. The budget is very low but in a movie like this, that can be (and is) a wonderful thing. The acting is marvelously underplayed.  Rob Freeman as the U.S. Army Engineer and Prince David Osei as the soldier are to be commended for never once going over the top. The plot is bare bones straight-forward and uncomplicated. And… no one tries to explain why there is a zombie apocalypse going on. It’s happening. It’s hit the fan. Deal with it, try to focus on what you have to do and don’t be distracted by the details. The movie, like all good zombie movies… and like the AMC television program The Walking Dead… isn’t about the zombies. It’s about survival.

(Prince David Osei as Sgt. Daniel Dembele)

Bottom line… The Dead is a truly good zombie movies. One of the best I’ve seen in many years. This film gives you a whole new and different take on the classic modern zombie apocalypse movie. It is definitely worth a look… if you can find it. This excellent Ford Brothers movie (as of the date of this article) doesn’t appear on either a Wikipedia search or on RottenTomatoes.com.

If you long for the days of simple basic zombie lore, then this is the movie for you.

One and three-quarters rotting African zombie thumbs up!

____________________________________________________________

[1] My dearly beloved friend, Chelsea Dagger (far and away the world’s coolest name), will no doubt differ with me, and loudly at that. Tall, young, slender, blonde, charming and beautiful, Chelsea has been spending what, to me, is an interminably long time in Kenya working with some NGO or other, trying to make the world a better place. (Yeah… she blends right in when she’s in Nairobi!)

(Chelsea & Moms with hell-hole in background)

 COME HOME, CHELSEA! We need you back up here in The Frozen North!

[2] Why is it that the armpits of the world are also some of the most beautiful places on Earth?

For a thoughtful and insightful piece on this movie, read the article at The Horror Hotel: Review: The Dead (2010)!

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