2010’s The Dead takes me back to old school zombie films and undead African cannibal exploitation films of the 1970s. The blow-by-blow of pretty much every moment an individual spends trying to survive in a world overrun by zombies may seem incredibly boring to many, but the lack of focus on frenetic action (these are slow zombies after all) and repetitive footage of the challenges our heroes face (most often with car problems as they drive through the African deserts), feels incredibly real and immersive…sort of like a Resident Evil video game! In particular, RE5, which takes place in Africa!
Granted, I definitely feel the film runs a little long and it does become sort of ridiculous how many times they have car problems, are suddenly surrounded by zombies, and get away in the nick of time. But maybe the much more stretched out story arc of the zombie series The Walking Dead has given me the ability to better appreciate the nuances of this approach to zombie films.
The change of setting alone immediately captures your attention. The dry, barren African land is so expansive it is actually disarming, because you feel like everything is quiet and isolated so you put your guard down, then all of a sudden this lone zombie will crawl out from under a damn bush or amble out from behind a tree. This is the essence of what made the slow zombie era so effective. They sneak up on you instead of announcing themselves in the form of a roaring horde.
So there’s this army plane on which is an infected dude. You can guess what happens, hell breaks loose, the plane crashes into the water, and our lead dude makes it to shore…only to find himself being approached by a shit load of zombies on the beach! The delicious super gory zombie cannibalism begins right away, so you know this film won’t be skimping on the nastiness.
Our lead gets away, has a nightmarish scenario in a cornfield (the beach, a cornfield…see? Not your average zombie settings), and hooks up with an incredibly attractive dude who eventually, after much hoping on my part, has a shirtless scene involving some serious pumping…of water.
Anyway, now it’s the two of them working together to make it through the plains of Africa. No, there are no wild animals, which is a big complaint I’ve read on the message boards, but seriously, I’m not looking to see men ripped apart by lions or tigers when I watch a zombie film…
Indeed, the film is long, but it delivers some awesome tension, jump scares, and excessive gore that fuel the pacing. There’s even a “scarezombie” as I like to call him—a lingering shot of a scarecrow. Of course, a hay stuffed dummy in the shape of a man wouldn’t exactly scare zombies as much as it would attract them until they realized the promise of dinner is nothing more than a bunch of horse shit.
The film also has a bunch of those “WHY is he going in there???” moments. It’s these investigative instances that give this a real Resident Evil video game feel, the difference being, in a video game you sometimes have to go into places you never would in reality in order to progress the game! Yet, despite some foolish decisions by the characters, by the end, I really felt connected with them. Unfortunately, for that reason, it’s pretty likely that viewers will be disappointed/confused by the ending—is it a case of “Everyone’s The Dead,” or is it a message of hope? Kind of hard to figure out. But really, you walk away from the film not wanting it to be ambivalent for the sake of a possible sequel. Because this film’s approach to the zombie apocalypse simply doesn’t need to be expanded upon. Although I’d well it expanding on this….
And finally, for those who complain about the film being too long, boring, and repetitive with bad acting and bad zombie makeup, IMO, the original Dawn of the Dead, which many consider the ultimate zombie film, is all of the above, not to mention unintentionally humorous….