Starring Dean Cain, Susan Ward, Guy Torry, Peter Green, Natassia Malthe, Ellie Cornell, Armin Shimerman
Directed by Patrick Dinhunt
Mark A. Altman sure does like his zombie movies. The man produced House of the Dead, House of the Dead 2, All Souls Day, and now Dead and Deader, which he also co-scripted. The man loves his pop culture references even more so. Dead and Deader has enough pop culture references crammed into 90-minutes to even make Joss Whedon scream, “Enough already!” It would make sense if you had one character that did this sort of thing – the Susan Ward character is a film student – but just about every character does it and does so virtually non-stop. On the run from the cops, zombies are on the loose murdering people, and you’re a half-zombie yourself, are you really going to take time to play Star Wars trivia with a waitress? Zombies are out to kill you and you’re casually debating whether or not the Dawn of the Dead remake was better or worse than the original? The endless stream of pop culture zingers really does become obnoxious after awhile. Folks, when someone as prone to making (often obscure) pop culture references like myself finds the level of pop culture quipping going on in a motion picture to be annoying then you know it had to have been complete overkill.
I’d liken Dead and Deader to being sort of a Universal Soldier meets Dead Heat without the level of action of the former or the over-the-top nature of the latter. Quite the atypical zombie movie at first, by the third act it’ll have devolved into just another zombie flick with people trapped inside a location being overrun with zombies and having to fight their way out. It tries to meld horror, action, and comedy, but really only succeeds at achieving an excessive level of hokeyness.
Dead and Deader kicks off in Cambodia with a platoon led by Lt. Bobby Quinn (Dean Cain) raiding a shack for whatever reason. The building is a lab with mutilated dead bodies on the floor and a fish tank full of scorpions on a table. Zombies attack and are gunned down. A locker door opens up; a scientist clutching a hand grenade is inside. Terrified, he declares that he does not want to end up like the others, pulls the pin on the grenade, and tosses it. The scorpion tank is shattered open and the soldiers seemingly killed in the blast.
At a military base in California, a coroner prepares to perform an autopsy on Quinn’s corpse only to have the dead soldier wake up. Cain has become a literal dead man walking. Experiencing an extreme pain in his arm, Cain cuts it open and one of those scorpions from the Cambodian lab crawls out. He promptly kills it. Natassia Malthe, who is introduced to the film mid-shower, briefly appears as the base scientist called in to deal with the undead Dean Cain situation. They soon go check the morgue for other soldiers brought back from the Cambodian mission and discover there be zombies on the loose – full blown zombies, not semi-zombies like Dean Cain. Quinn and a military cook named Judson (Guy Torry) end up killing a couple of them. Turns out that Malthe’s appearance is little more than a cameo as she is quickly bitten by a zombie, immediately becomes one herself, and beheaded.
Cain, it turns out, is not your typical zombie. He’s got no pulse yet still maintains all of his faculties. He does have pale skin, green blood, super healing, super hearing, and the occasional glowy eye thing going on. There’ll be constant references as the film goes on to him needing to get a costume and becoming a superhero. Bobby Quinn: Super Zombie has but one weakness that keeps creeping up on him; out of the blue he’ll experience stabbing pains in his gut and a tremendous hunger for raw meat. If he doesn’t get any soon enough he’ll enter into an uncontrollable frenzy lusting for human flesh and remain in that state until he gets some fresh flesh to snack on.
Afterwards, Quinn is dragged into the commanding officer’s office to explain what the hell just happened, but he doesn’t believe the zombified soldier’s tale of the undead, not even interested in bothering to check Quinn for a pulse. “Your story has more holes in it than a Michael Bay film,” he tells Quinn. Yes, in this movie even the commanding officer of a military base speaks like an Ain’t It Cool News talkbacker.
Quinn and Judson both end up being arrested for murder only to quickly escape, right about the time that a military transport truck carrying some not-so-dead corpses gets ransacked by the living dead. The movie suddenly makes a detour into buddy comedy territory with Quinn and Judson on the run. They eventually end up in a redneck bar where they meet up with Holly (Susan Ward), a sassy film student turned waitress with an endless supply of pop culture movie quips. It doesn’t take long before zombies overrun the place and the duo becomes a trio – all three now find themselves on the run.
Dopey as it may have been, up until this point Dead and Deader was still a breezy, slightly entertaining bit of B-movie fluff. If you need any idea what the mindset of Dead or Deader is, this is a movie where a zombie decapitation is preceded by the one liner, “Welcome to Supercuts,” two police officers are listed in the closing credits as Officer Raimi and Officer Campbell, and the main characters are forced to change wardrobe at a costume shop, after which Dean Cain will be dressed like Don Johnson on Miami Vice, Susan Ward in Madonna “Live a Virgin” garb, and Guy Torry ends up in something resembling a Michael Jackson “Thriller” jacket. Even after finding out Quinn’s a zombie, Holly still seems to be just waiting for the perfect opportunity to jump his bones. It’s never really that funny; some of the lines are amusing and some bomb so bad I halfway expected to see Jaye P. Morgan and Jamie Farr fighting over which one of them would get to hit the gong. See how easy it is to toss in a pop culture reference at random?
But right about the time the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together is about when Dead and Deader began to run out of steam. Ah, hell, it comes to a dead stop. It momentarily gets all serious as we finally find out the truth about the scorpions and the man behind the project. Just when it seems like things might start to take a turn for the interesting the movie just scraps everything story-wise and becomes House of the Dead 3 as our heroes have to shoot their way out of the scientist’s facility swarming with zombies. Say what you will about Uwe Boll, but you kind of develop a little admiration for House of the Dead‘s ridiculously overblown shoot’em up sequence when you experience tiresomely repetitive zombie blasting action like this. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all the whole last half hour is composed of. Well, that and more non-stop pop culture one-liners.
By the time the closing credits rolled, Dead and Deader felt less like a new movie and more like a rejected mid-80’s TV pilot designed to set up a potential weekly series about an undead crimefighter, his wisecracking black sidekick, and his hot & feisty girlfriend. I could see this being pitched to NBC back in the days when they were airing junk like “Manimal” (ed note: Blasphemy! “Manimal” was brilliant!) and “Misfits of Science”. Heck, maybe that’s what the makers of Dead and Deader were going for. I don’t know. I just know that if I was a network exec I’d have most likely passed on this pilot too, or at the very least sent the show’s creators a note reading, “Needs retooling.”
2 out of 5
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