Dead, The (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by Howard J. Ford and Jon Ford
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
I make no bones about it. One of my all time favorite living dead flicks is Lucio Fulci's Zombie. From the excessive gore to the beautiful setting, the movie is just rife with flavor, and I've always wished a quality sequel would have gotten made. Don't get me started about the several Zombi sequels that followed it. Though campy and at times ludicrously funny, they were mostly an exercise in misery.
When word of the Ford brothers' The Dead hit my desk two years ago, I was ecstatic. This flick, for all intents and purposes, looked like what I had been hoping for all of these years. Not a true sequel to Zombie but at least something cut from the same quality of cloth. Was I right? Read on and find out.
In The Dead we meet Lt. Brian Murphy (Freeman), one of the only survivors of a plane crash off the coast of a war-torn Africa. Living through the crash itself has turned out to be the least of his worries as now he's lost and forced to travel on foot across an incredibly dangerous landscape filled with almost uncrossable terrain and, even worse, hundreds of flesh-hungry zombies. Eventually Murphy meets up with local solider Daniel Dembele (Osei), who's frantically searching for his son. Figuring that their odds are better should they watch each other's back, the two embark on a perilous journey to a military camp hoping to find everything that they seek as well as a way out of this godforsaken living hell.
Let me say this... I cannot recall a zombie movie before that has featured this many members of the living dead. Seriously, they're shambling around in just about every scene, a constant reminder of the doom our protagonists are facing. There is nothing lighthearted or funny about these creatures either. Here they are portrayed in the most serious of tones, which works well and contributes to the overall bleakness of the feel of this movie. In complete juxtaposition to the ghastly horror these living corpses bring with them is the African landscape, which is stunningly captured by filmmakers Howard J. Ford and Jon Ford. This duo faced insurmountable odds to get this flick made, and their hard work shines in every frame of film.
As for the zombies themselves, as stated, they are of the old school shambling variety who can be big trouble in packs. There's way more rotting than running going on here. Their look (which is probably the single most important feature of any zombie flick) is very dry on the verge of whither. Being that this outbreak is new, there aren't very many hero zombies on display that are insane looking, but there are a few that will be considered extremely memorable. Much better than the high-speed, pasty blood-spattered "Goths Gone Wild" assembly line zombies we've been getting for the most part of the last two decades, that's for sure.
The film is a slow burn tale with such minimal dialogue that some may have pacing issues with it, but given the nightmarish quality of everything on display, there really isn't too much to complain about. My only real gripe is that I would have liked to have seen a much rowdier ending than what we got, but hey, that, too, is easily forgiven. As is, The Dead (along with The Horde) is one of the best damned zombie movies I've seen in a long time.
The Blu-ray itself is nothing short of stunning in terms of picture and sound quality. At least it looks that way in the daytime when you can see every single detail onscreen with razor sharp clarity. The night scenes (of which there are only a few), however, come off a bit flat despite having some really deep black levels. Again, not much to complain about. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is where this movie really shines with the film's lush jungles and deserts buzzing to life around you. Stellar stuff.
In terms of special features on the Blu-ray and DVD, well, with the exception of one of the single most interesting commentary tracks you're likely to listen to, there are slim pickings to be had. Listening to the Ford brothers talk about all their trials and tribulations while making this movie is an adventure unto itself. It's a miracle the movie actually happened. This makes it all the more disappointing when all we get beyond that is non-narrated b-roll of some of the flick's behind-the-scenes moments and a single deleted scene. The Fords released three video diaries years ago. Why they're not here is a mystery, but I've included them below for your enjoyment.
The Dead, despite its few shortcomings, lands just short of a knockout punch for fans of the living dead. It reveres the films that came before it and wears its love for them on its sleeve. Hopefully the heroes of the flick will revisit this story and pick up where they left off. I speak not of the flick's characters, but of Howard J. Ford and Jon Ford themselves. I cannot sing their praises any higher. Hats off, gentlemen, and thank you.
4 out of 5
2 out of 5