Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Dead

A grain of salt with which you may wish to take this review: I missed the first five minutes or so of the movie after miscalculating the length of the one I saw before it in Somerville, mishearing whether a train was C or E, and then needing to take a shuttle bus from Kenmore to Coolidge Corner. In retrospect, the 66 bus might have looked a little better (which is saying something!).

So, whatever information co-director Howard Ford had to impart at the start of the show, I missed. Hopefully it was a good one; he did pretty well with the Q&A after the movie. It was maybe not the most informative Q&A I've ever seen, as I often got the impression that he was torn between wanting to speak well of the people he worked with - including himself and his brother, but also the locals, because nobody who makes this movie really wants to be the comfortable European talking about how backwards the folks he met in Africa were - and wanting to convey the madness of shooting on these locations. I imagine that there's a great DVD commentary in this movie's future, because there were some stories to tell: Star Rob Freeman got seriously ill; schedules got destroyed; customs held up boxes with prop guns and severed limbs until the proper bribery had been done; they recruited limbless people off the street, had them wait around until a shooting day came, put them in zombie make-up, and paid them more than they'd normally see in months. These are great stories, but a Q&A might not be the best place to tell them - you stop when you'd answered the question posed and midnight movie audiences aren't exactly the greatest at the follow-up question. A conversation between people involved months/years later, though? That would work.

I liked this one quite a bit, and it pleases me to see that the Coolidge is having it back for a pair of midnight shows this weekend; if you're in the Boston area and like zombies - especially the classic Romero-style shamblers, as these Ford made their love of the original Night of the Living Dead quite clear - this is worth checking out.

The Dead

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 15 October 2011 in the Cooldige Corner Theatre #1 (@fter Midnight - Fresh Blood)

Most people who decide to make a zombie movie do it in a bare-bones way, shooting in their hometown rather than going particularly far afield; when you're working with no budget, it's best to be in familiar territory. Brothers Howard and Jonathan Ford decided to do something different, packing their severed limbs in a suitcase and heading to Africa. It's the sort of crazy decision that makes an otherwise conventional movie into something memorable.

Zombie outbreaks can spread fast; the one in The Dead is already consuming a large chunk of northwestern Africa as the movie opens. Foreigners are heading home, but with limited success; an plane evacuating Americans crashes just off-shore and the walking dead are waiting for the three survivors at the beach. Only USAF Lieutenant Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman) is able to make his way through the woods to a nearby village, where he meets local soldier Daniel Dembele (Prince David Oseia). Murphy gets a car running, and the pair set off to find a way back their respective families - Brian searching for an airfield with a plane he can repair and fly to Europe, Daniel heading for the fort where his son has been relocated.

This fort, happily for the audience if less so for the characters, is not in the same fairly generic environment that many post-apocalyptic films favor; it's on the outskirts of the Sahara, on the other side of a series of jagged peaks. The Fords more or less completely upend what this sort of horror film is supposed to look like with a series of breathtaking locations: We get to see an unspoiled-looking beach, villages large and lived-in enough that the characters can move around, forests, those beautiful peaks, and the majestic desert. Cinematographer Jonathan shoots in lush panoramic 35mm, and it's not just a spectacular feast for the eyes: The changing environments give the pair's quest a sense of scale, and the brothers make good use of the widescreen frame.

Full review at EFC.

1 comment:

virusena said...

Really good movie.