‘High school is hell’
The Dead Ones is a 2019 American horror feature film about four teenagers in detention being haunted by past traumas.
Directed by Jeremy Kasten (The Profane Exhibit; The Exorcist Files; The Wizard of Gore; The Thirst) from a screenplay written by Zach Chassler, the Sick-O-Scope production stars Sarah Rose Harper, Brandon Thane Wilson, Katie Foster, Torey Garza and Claire Kramer.
Summer break is almost over. Four youngsters are punished by having to clean the school and can only leave when everything is spick-and-span. At first sight, it looks like the school was left by a very enthused group of students, but soon they realize a horrible event has taken place.
While trying to unravel the mysterious havoc, they are chased by four marauding, masked people. These four Gas Masks seem like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as they represent Famine, Pestilence, War, and finally Death.
They set traps and hunt the young students down. While the youngsters are fighting to survive, they discover that they’re more involved with the ravaged school than they first thought…
The Dead Ones is dreadful to endure even with such a short running time. The ‘plot’ is almost non-existent, much of it seems to have been filmed in blur-o-vision, or often in semi-darkness which makes the effects difficult to discern, and the jerky editing is more akin to a music video. During the high school ‘massacre’ there is nothing resembling any genuine panic amongst the fleeing or dying kids. Meanwhile, the lead characters keep calling out each other’s names so many times it becomes laughable.
The ending is entirely predictable right from the start when the unlikeable, annoying protagonists are in a minivan with a green screen background to give the impression they are on a bridge to nowhere. And yet, bizarrely, I can see some people liking The Dead Ones because they perceive it to be edgy or somehow disturbing cos it depicts a school massacre. Unfortunately, it’s shoddy and simply dull.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA
“The terrifying school scenario quickly becomes a macabre dive into the psyche of each student, peeling away the layers of their pasts. The only let-down is an underwritten screenplay, which plays up the mystery of what’s happening for more suspense and intrigue. The downside is that the audience is only vaguely aware of what’s actually happening until late in the film.” DoBlu.com
“Ghosts, gore, and grief over lives lost take center stage beneath the specter of a school shooting that ties them all together. It’s less about an eventual reveal than it is the self-revelatory journey getting there, and while it delivers thrilling visuals, bloody beats, and horrifying imagery its power rests in its frightening look into the mindset of angry youths.” Film School Rejects
“I feel that Kasten and Chassler do a solid job of balancing the horror and shock of such tragic accidents with a sensitivity and compassion for the victims of the Four Horsemen gang. This is by no means an attempt at sheer exploitation of actual tragedies, and the film is set up in a manner so that no one should be rooting for the perpetrators.” Horror Fuel
“With a 73-minute runtime, the potential for lingering on the morose rhetoric or teetering compassion of the teens is lost and could have been stirred into their affixed affliction for a more targeted approach to their limbo circumstances. While timing might be less than desirable, Jeremy Kasten summons judgement for The Dead Ones to be convicted of unnerving decorum and executes psychological absolution with the tenderness of a Satan himself.” It’s Bloggin Evil
“This is an interesting spin on the school-shooter scenario, loaded with cool practical effects and some not so cool digital bloodshed. While I found the narrative a bit confusing the first go around, perhaps by design, it does all come together for a nice finish, it’s a cool bit of indie horror that tackles a hot-button issue with stylish visuals and a disorienting narrative.” McBastard’s Mausoleum
“Visually and narratively surreal, it’s almost like being dropped into the middle of a fever dream. Seldom in-your-face scary, The Dead Ones builds tension through atmosphere and a creatively disorienting storyline. Despite the inevitability of its plot revelations, the film masterfully instills dread and concludes with a denouement that more-than-justifies the off-putting premise.” Movie Burner Entertainment
“For all its trippiness and integration of temporal physics, The Dead Ones ultimately boils down to killing off its young cast one by one. The trouble with this is that aside from Mouse, who is played sympathetically by Harper (her monologue concerning a pet rodent is genuinely affecting), they’re an unlikeable lot whom we couldn’t care less about, particularly once we realise what they’re guilty of.” The Movie Waffler
“The Dead Ones offers a juddery, disorienting trip into the psyche of the school shooter, as well as a catabasis into the mor(t)ality of crime, punishment, and maybe even redemption. In keeping with its title, The Dead Ones is a mystery in more than one sense. There is a formal twist of sorts, but the film barely conceals it…” Projected Figures
“The pacing is controlled, but quick, getting to the meat of the story without the need for any filler. He gets strong performances out of his cast, with the four leads all doing pretty decent work. It’s clear that this wasn’t made with a huge budget, but Kasten gets the most out of what he had, and what ends up on screen is really solid stuff.” Rock! Shock! Pop!
“The Dead Ones explores America’s high school shootings in a way I hadn’t seen done much before. It never really makes a comment on them though, but goes some way to trying to create a rationale behind why people would want to do such an abhorrent act. From start to finish the nightmarish tone remains consistent, thanks to some inventive moments and a great looking set.” The Rotting Zombie
“In keeping with its title, The Dead Ones is a mystery in more than one sense. There is a formal twist of sorts, but the film barely conceals it, preferring instead to make it the elephant in the room, obvious yet too ethically unpalatable for characters and perhaps even viewers to accept and face head-on.” Rue Morgue
” …the film starts out as pretty much your standard slasher with what seems like the exact characters one would expect – but takes more and more turns to the left and right until its very shocking reveal in the finale including a fate for our heroes nobody saw coming. And a direction heavy on mood that aims for more than just jump scares and solid performances help bring this slight concept to life rather creepily.” Search My Trash
“Make no mistake about it The Dead Ones is about as disturbing film as you are going to see. There is a perfect mix of school violence and elements of the supernatural. For a low budget film, it is very well-made and effects are well done. The Dead Ones‘ is a mind trip of a film that will keep you thinking and at the edge of your seat the entire time.” Video Views
” …none of it seems to make any sense. But once the film begins to cut back and forth between past and present The Dead Ones becomes a very different kind of disturbing. The kind that will probably turn some viewers who thought they were getting a simple horror film off.” Voices from the Balcony
In the USA, Artsploitation will release The Dead Ones on Blu-ray and DVD on September 22, 2020.
Cast and characters:
Sarah Rose Harper … Alice ‘Mouse’ Morley
Brandon Thane Wilson … Scottie French
Katie Foster … Emily Davis
Torey Garza … Louis Friend
Clare Kramer … Ms Persephone
Muse Watson … Gus
Amelia Talbot … Grace
Michael James Levy … Sam (as Michael Levy)
Shannon Cusack … Vanessa
Shane Tunney … Chad
Corey Bente … Student
Katie Buenneke … Girl in Video Studio
Jeff Butler … Bart
Enrique Chicas … The Hispanic Paramedic
David DeBoy … Balding Teacher
Having been shown at European festivals, The Dead Ones had its US premiere on December 14th 2019 at the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival in San Francisco.