While The Dead does (as the publicity party-line proudly proclaims) take zombies back to their origins in Africa, don’t expect a fanciful, mystical journey into voodoo ala I Walked With A Zombie or The Serpent & the Rainbow. Nope, no fun here; these are infected undead, decidedly de-mythologized clumsy creatures out for flesh and blood (and hearts – dvd’s out on Feb 14).
Our go-to guy is Lt. Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman), the only survivor of a plane crash off the coast of war-torn anytown Africa. The titular dead are returning to life and attacking the living, so Murphy finds himself in peril not only at the rotting hands of the beings and the mysterious virus they carry, but he’s trapped in a battle-bitten land of poisoned food and water that’s been stripped of all means of communication. Desperate to find out if the epidemic is worldwide (and has affected his family), Murphy finally finds relief in an ally when he meets an African soldier. Daniel Dembele (Prince David Osei) is searching for his son, and the two join forces.
While the film does present admirable effort (shot on 35mm, in actual decimated locations, using local residents as the zombie hordes), at nearly two hours long and with very little to offer in the way of actual storytelling, The Dead is dead indeed. I was bored out of my wits watching this one the first time upon theatrical release and didn’t fare any better as the DVD spun. The commentary is enlightening (there are some mighty harrowing stories), but unless you are a major zombie movie completist, I can’t give the go-ahead on this one.
Bonus features on The Dead Blu-ray™ and DVD include audio commentary by writer/producer/director Howard J. Ford and writer/director of photography/co-director Jon Ford, “Unearthing The Dead: Behind the Scenes” featurette, and a deleted scene.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson