Twitter Plot Summary: An American travels across Africa in a bid to reach safety after a zombie apocalypse takes place.
Given how prolific the zombie genre is these days, most films try and do something a bit different with the living dead rather than the same old thing of a group of survivors holed up somewhere. The Dead does its bit for the cause by setting the action in Africa rather than somewhere in the West, and is all the better for it. As a result of this canny use of location, its closest link in the genre is with the tropical-set Zombie Flesh Eaters. Here, for reasons not disclosed, the living dead roam Africa and chaos has ensued. An airplane crash deposits American soldier Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman) in West Africa where he must work his way across the country in search of both his wife and son and, ultimately, rescue. It’s not a story that’s all that original, admittedly, but it’s sold in the way it is presented.
The Dead has some impressive visual effects and production values despite what was no doubt a relatively low budget. The tension is palpable, the zombies proving to be slow but relentless in their quest for flesh, the threat constant and seemingly endless. The zombies here are the most unsettling seen for a long time. They rarely snarl, and it’s infrequent that they make any noise at all. Instead they stare at you impassively, their cold white eyes seeing you as nothing more than their next meal. It’s a chilling threat even without their flesh eating tendencies. The Ford Brothers, on directorial duties, have a real knack for ramping up the tension as character struggle to open boxes or try to clamber to safety as the undead slowly shuffle towards them. The use of real life amputees goes a long way towards selling the zombies, as does the use of gore – more impressive given that much of the practical effects were done in camera, it gives everything a much more physical feel than if they had resorted to just using post-production effects.
Joining forces with a local man called Daniel, himself on a quest to find his son, he and Brian have to contend not only with the zombies but the harsh environmental conditions around them. If the flesh eating monsters don’t kill them, a lack of water might. This is a point made time and time again, yet it doesn’t feel like it’s preaching or forcing ideas down your throat. Instead it’s tackled from a realistic perspective, occasionally told through actions rather than words.
The Dead is a pared down zombie film with plenty going for it, not least of all the impressive African locations and acting from all involved. Other than its unusual setting it is nothing more than a standard zombie story, but both the presentation and the acting elevate it above the usual low quality that the genre often provides and we come to expect. Chalk this one up as a winner, and no doubt a close representation of what a zombie outbreak would be like on the African continent.