Saturday, October 29, 2011

Horror Fest 6 Day Two: The Dead

 The undead have risen in Africa, and as the privileged try to escape in planes, the African army is trying to contain the outbreak (and failing). Lt. Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman) is a mechanic trying to get home to his family when the last plane out crashes. He washes up on the beach, escapes the zombies prowling the shore, and makes his way to the nearest town. Nearby, Sgt. Daniel Dembele (Prince David Oseia), is searching for his son, the sole survivor of an undead raid on their village. Murphy and Dembele's paths cross, and they agree to work together to reunite and escape. Murphy fixes a truck and the soldiers drive across the desert to find some sense of hope.

 The Dead is a pretty good zombie movie from Africa that suffers from serious pacing issues in the second half. This is a shame, because much of the promise of the first half of the film dissolves into a directionless conclusion that doesn't pack the punch it should. On top of that, the political subtext is muddled - is the white protagonist supposed to represent the role of America in African life, or is he simply just another example of the post-Colonial presence in the Third World? Lt Murphy and Sgt. Dembele are set up as two men with different objectives working together out of convenience, but (SPOILER) once Dembele is killed, his quest to find his son feels like a cheap distraction. Even when Murphy finds Dembele's song (by accident, mind you), it doesn't have the impact that it ought to.

 Zombie films tend to use the undead as a metaphor for the masses, but it's really unclear what The Dead is trying to with African zombies beyond the novelty. True, it is refreshing to see the undead shambling around in the desert, outside of the confines of large cities, but after a while it loses its appeal. The zombies don't serve any purpose - there's a suggestion of witch doctors and a dream sequence reminiscent of The Serpent and the Rainbow, but the undead are only a threat when the Ford brothers need them to be. Murphy easily hacks through a crowd of them near the end which lowers the stakes a few minutes later. The final zombie siege has no tension because we've already seen him survive.

 I feel like I'm beating up on The Dead too much; I did enjoy most of the first half, and for a low budget movie it looks very good. The effects are impressive and the location provides an interesting contrast to the average urban zombie warfare. The acting is pretty good, and if you're in the mood for an undead film that delivers on the gore, The Dead is worth checking out.

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