‘The feeding begins.’
The Dead is a 2010 British zombie horror feature film written and directed by the Ford brothers, Howard and Jonathan. The movie stars Rob Freeman, Prince David Osei, and David Donton.
Iconic horror monsters have rather appeared in waves over recent years; mummies, werewolves, vampires and inevitably zombies have all received makeovers, some inspired, many directors, alas, completely misunderstanding the enigmatic charm and mythology of their targets.
More recent efforts dealing with zombies, populating many of the genres greatest triumphs, have eschewed long-held ‘truths’ and have had them running, jumping, speaking and roaring, often riddled with unsubtle nods to the curses of modern living and social disorder. Whither the shuffling corpse and ominous, relentless threat?
In this respect, the Brothers Ford have fixed a problem that had no need to be broken in the first place. Their film sees an American engineer, Brian Murphy (Freeman), survive a plane crash carrying evacuees, escaping who knows what, off the coast of Africa. Alas, he lands amongst the cause of their strife – the living dead.
Setting off in the vain hope of finding his family, he commandeers a jeep and is saved from near-death by last of a platoon, Sergeant Dembele (Osei), himself determined to be reunited with his son. Coming from very different backgrounds, they learn to overcome their differences (sounds more twee than it is) to survive the hoards of the undead.
So, let’s get it out of the way – here’s the bad stuff. The acting is truly gruelling; the good news is there are really only two characters in the whole film, any more acting at their standard (there are hints they may not be the only ones staying behind for extra homework in the plane before it mercifully crashes) and we may as well let the zombies win. You are also advised to turn your brain off before the last 20 seconds which threatens to undo the good work done before. Right, now the good stuff…
The zombies look absolutely terrific, the modest film budget concentrating on old-school make-up and prosthetics, often using limbless actors to achieve results CGI can only dream of. Even a simple effect like white contact lenses creates an unearthly, unsettling effect. They behave as you might imagine resurrected corpses to; largely aimless, shuffling cadavers, strolling though both dazzling sunshine and freezing night, undeterred.
The real star of the film is the setting, using the barren, eerie but beautiful backdrop of Burkina Faso to stunning effect. Here we can see perhaps more than any other film about the living dead the sheer scale of the disaster and the utter futility of attempting to do anything but survive from minute to minute.
The sweeping, dusty vista is as lifeless and threatening as the zombies themselves and the search for water and even somewhere to sleep become monumental feats. Using such a setting for a horror film is all but unique and it is to the directors’ credit that they pull off such a challenge with such aplomb.
Shot on 35mm, the film may be seen as a step backwards but this was really what the genre needed – there’s no need to over-elaborate on why the dead are coming back to life, monsters as a device are there to scare, entertain and yes, provoke thought, but The Dead largely gives the audience credit for being able to do that themselves. It’s possible the Ford Brothers should have quit the zombie film whilst they were ahead but unfortunately, they continued the story in 2013 with The Dead 2: India.
Daz Lawrence, MOVIES and MANIA