Directed by Howard J. Ford and Jonathan Ford
Brothers Howard and Jon Ford jump continents with a lethargic follow-up to their impressive previous collaboration, the Africa-set The Dead, this time taking their own brand of flesh-eating chaos to India. When a crew member of a commercial barge arrives back from African shores sporting a bite on the arm from a seemingly insane native, it doesn’t take long before the man is turned into a shambling zombie amidst the bustle of Mumbai’s slums. Meanwhile our protagonist, American contractor Nicholas Burton (Millson), is perched hundreds of feet above ground tending to the electronic circuits of a wind farm, unaware of the rapidly spreading menace below.
When Nicholas receives a distress call from his girlfriend, Ishani (Mishra), revealing that not only is something going very wrong on the streets of the city but she is also confirmed pregnant with his child, he sets off on a mission across a landscape now teeming with the undead in order to retrieve his partner and escape to safety.
The plot here is all very simple, as was the original; however, the performances leave much to be desired when it comes to the human side of the drama. Being an English-spoken film populated by many actors for whom it is a second language is inevitably a factor, but regardless there is little excuse for much of the simultaneously awkward, stilted, empty and unconvincing exchanges contained within. The relationship between Ishani and Nicholas never feels authentic, and throwing in the obstacle of Ishani’s wholly disapproving traditionalist father (Gupta) is an easy method of upping the emotional stakes that also fails to go anywhere. Similarly going nowhere is a subplot involving the young orphan Javed (Gopal), who joins Nicholas for the latter half of his journey. Revelations regarding Javed’s parentage find themselves shoe-horned in at the last minute in an attempt to bring the disparate stories of various survivors together, but it never comes to any meaningful fruition whatsoever.
On the plus side, as is the case for the previous The Dead, the Ford brothers have crafted another stunning-looking film with The Dead 2: India. It’s beautifully shot (if somewhat brutish and over-eager in its editing on occasion), and the external locations add a glorious sense of scale while bumping up the value of the production exponentially, with a similarly impressive and culturally-themed score to back them up. Those who found the first film to be much too slowly paced for them would do well to be wary of this one in turn — the pace here is truly glacial, which is much to the film’s detriment when it struggles so badly to paint any convincing characters.
So with The Dead 2: India we get a distressingly poor story delivered with superlative visuals, but also important and not yet touched on are the zombies themselves. How does the approach of the brothers Ford to their shambling undead work out? Well, put it this way: If zombies happen to push your particular fear buttons, this film will scare you half to death. Like the original, the zombies are a magnificent mix of Romero and Fulci’s approach to the living dead, realised with some excellent prosthetic and makeup effects. They’re slow as molasses and easily outpaced, but quicker than expected to swarm and inescapably determined once prey has been noticed. Scenes of Javed and Nicholas driving through darkened outback roads as each passing walking corpse slowly makes a grab for the windows of the vehicle are toe-curlingly effective and testament to how well realised the persistent threat is. Every moment is fraught with peril — every closed door or darkened room could be housing a member of the undead ranks, and going to sleep is a genuinely terrifying proposition (the fatal consequences of which are explored more viscerally in the first film).
The zombie attack scenes are, for the most part, well executed and tense; and these, combined with one particularly horrific setup which forces Nicholas into making a devastating moral decision, give glimpses of the nerve-shattering survival horror that our directing duo strive hard to perfect. It’s a shame, then, that we find a complete package that more often tests the patience than it does the nerves and could regretfully thus only be recommended for ardent zombie fans and those confident that the woeful plot and performances are unlikely to impede their enjoyment of some of the scariest zombies seen on-screen in years.