Main cast: Rob Freeman (Lt Brian Murphy), Prince David Osei (Sgt Daniel Dembele), David Dontoh (The Chief), and John Dunton-Downer (Lt Frank Greaves)
Directors: Jonathan and Howard J Ford
Lt Brian Murphy, an US Army engineer, is on a plane back home when zombie panic breaks loose and the plane crashes. Brian soon learns that zombies are everywhere, and he has crashed right in the thick of trouble. He soon meets Sgt Daniel Dembele, who has deserted from the army to return to his home. Daniel found his wife dead and his son missing. (His son had been rescued by other military personnel and is currently in one of the makeshift bases that serve as a sanctuary against the zombies, but Daniel doesn’t know that.) Brian has found himself a truck, so he and Daniel comes to an agreement. Daniel will get the truck to resume the search for his son, after he shows Brian the way to the nearest airport. Of course, things never go as planned.
On paper, The Dead sounds like any other zombie apocalypse movie, only this one is set in the African coast, so there is added bonus of zombies being the metaphor for the Scary Black Man threat that I’m sure some people will find offense. However, there is a strong undercurrent of human vulnerabilities that I find compelling. The sense of desolation and futility permeate every scene of the movie, and the barren landscape only accentuates the hopelessness of the situation faced by our two men. This movie can get very dull and slow-moving for the most part, as there are many scenes here that serve as filler, but the final reel can cut deep in the heart. That’s the biggest triumph of this movie – it drives home the sense that all is lost, even hope, with devastating effect.
The zombies are of the slow and shambling sort, a throwback to old school zombie movies, and while the special effects are clearly made with minimal budget, there is enough chills and scares to be had from the gore. In a way, this makes sense, as the most sophisticated studio-generated CGI nowadays have yet to match the scariness of old-school special effects, and thus, the old-school special effects here work in ways that expensively made horror movies rarely could.
Unfortunately, this movie also suffers from several common ailments that plague too many low-budget horror movies out there. The acting for the most part is wooden, especially from Rob Freeman. But he was apparently suffering from malaria during filming, to the point that he had hallucinations, and the rest of the crew had a difficult time with production, so maybe I could excuse the leaden acting this time.
But the script relies often on the main characters being in a position of weakness, and this doesn’t always work, considering that our main characters are in the military, and Brian is an engineer. But Brian rarely seeks to search and forage for things that he can use to defend himself or get himself home. When they run out of water to keep the truck going, they could have just emptied their bladder into the radiator tank, but no, they use their drinking water instead. And it’s disheartening how our soldier dudes always behave like fresh-faced newbies when it comes to being caught off-guard by zombies. Did I mention that these are slow shambling zombies? And yet they can somehow sneak up to Daniel and Brian with surprising ease.
Therefore, in many ways, The Dead is a standard zombie apocalypse movie fueled by contrived out-of-character behavior and illogical plot developments to advance the scares and gore. But it also has a strong emotional undercurrent that drives the movie and an unlikely pairing of male leads that work. If the movie hadn’t been so draggy and slow so often, it would have been a winner. As it is, I think it’s worth a look for fans of zombie apocalypse movies.