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The Dead (Blu-ray Review)

I’d caught word about a little zombie tale called The Dead due to it being released on Blu-ray in the UK a few months ago. I almost imported it myself, but decided to wait a bit. Once the announcement by Anchor Bay was made on them acquiring it for distribution here in the states, I jumped at the chance to review it.  That was actually a good thing due to it saving me twice what it normally would cost me to import, and it being a blind buy. I had seen the trailer for The Dead and thought it looked decent enough. Zombies in Africa with a hint of Resident Evil 5 – what’s not to like?  Well, that’s what we’re going to find out. 

 

Film

The Dead is the latest zombie film to hit the high definition format in all its undead glory. Then again, this would be the bajillionth zombie film, big budget or low budget, to hit screens and direct to video shelves in recent months. What separates The Dead from the rest of the zombie genre? Africa. The Dead was shot on location in Africa on a super low budget and the local villagers were used as extras and undead creatures of the night (and day). The story is easy enough to follow. Lt. Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman) is an American Air Force Engineer whose plane crashes off the coast of Africa. His crew is dead and he emerges as the only survivor.

As he gathers himself, he has to come to realization that he is all alone in Africa where everyone has turned into a living-dead nightmare. Good thing for Lt. Murphy, these zombies don’t run, so that gives him time to assess the situation. Once Murphy gathers his things up he’s off and walking to find other survivors and supplies. All he really wants to do is get back to his family, but they’re in the states, so that’s not really going to work out unless a miracle drops right into his lap.

Along the way Murphy runs into Sergeant Dembele who has fled his unit in order to find what remains of his family. His village has been ravaged by the zombies. The men team up to do what they can against the legion hordes of walking dead all the while trying not get eaten or shot at by rival military units on the lookout for newly infected victims. It seems that everywhere that the men turn to there’s something bad waiting for them.

The Dead looked really good on paper and in the trailer that I saw due to it being shot in Africa and having that old school zombie feel to it. The zombies featured were of the walking kind, and really gave it that Serpent and Rainbow look to it, but didn’t go that route at all. In fact, it really didn’t go anywhere as fast as it should have. That’s what kind irritated me a bit. The film meanders when it should be moving forward. I’m all for plot and story development, but unless you’re making a film that’s over two hours then you really need to put some pep in your step – especially with a zombie film

It’s not until three quarters of the way in that you start to see what is really happening, but the bad news is that there’s nothing to be done. Escape is the only option, but the story doesn’t go past that. Sure, escape is the main objective and then what? Most importantly, why is everyone a zombie? There’s no mention of what happened to world and this being Africa, there’s no mention as to what happened to the animals. There may have been a bird or two flying about, but nothing else. Did the animals die out, did the virus travel to other parts of the world, etc. None of this is explored.

On the other hand, if all you care about is seeing creepy walking zombies and massive gore then you’ll like The Dead. I give The Dead major props for its low budget roots. The shoot was a difficult one and everyone made out almost unscathed. Listen to the commentary for the shenanigans that went down. It’s an “alright” film, but I was hoping for a lot more than what I got. If you’re a diehard zombie fan then you’ll like The Dead.

Video

The Dead is presented in 1080p, 1.78:1, widescreen. Shot on location in West Africa in 35mm, you would actually not know it due to the somewhat heavy process used to digitize the film. I initially thought it was shot on digital, but it wasn’t until I switched to the audio commentary track and listened to The Ford Brothers actually say it was 35mm film. Colors are very striking and bold, and the African environment looks amazing! Well, amazing until the zombies come calling. Contrast is stable and not blown out and black levels are extremely deep. Personally, I don’t think the print should have been tweaked all that much in post production due to it looking a tad bid artificial. There are a few instances in which the film looks too digitized for its own good, but if that’s what they were going for, then who am I to judge.

Audio

The Dead is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Lossless sound is the only way to experience a zombie film, in my opinion. Where the video loses steam, the audio comes in and picks up the slack. It’s great to see that studios such as Anchor Bay have not abandoned the Dolby TrueHD audio codec. Then again, lossless is losses, right? Dialogue, or what few lines there are in The Dead sound clean and crisp. Even with a thick accent, Prince David’s dialogue is easy to understand and I never found myself hitting the subtitles. Gunfire effects are used to enhance one’s surroundings and are captured flawlessly. You even hear the zombies creeping up from the rear channels. That’s why “walkers” are scarier than “runners.” You can’t really hear the walkers coming until they’re right on your @$$!

Extras

The Dead squanders its uniqueness factor with an extremely underwhelming package of attached extras. There IS a cool audio commentary with The Brothers Ford that is very fun and informative and you will hear how they made the film on the cheap in Africa and how they and the majority of the crew got sick in one way or another. Malaria anyone? It goes downhill from there with a very simple behind-the-scenes featurette and one deleted scene.

  • Filmmaker’s Commentary with Howard J. Ford and Jon Ford
  • Unearthing The Dead: Behind The Scenes
  • Deleted Scene

Summary

The Dead is a passable waste of time. It succeeds at delivering a somewhat new take on the zombie genre without actually giving us something new to add to the genre. It’s a double-edged sword. The Dead doesn’t really go anywhere past what you actually see onscreen which is a shame. I’m hoping that The Ford Brothers continue their franchise, because there is potential here, but I do believe we needed more resources to get that across.

 

 

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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