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Following at first the journey of Lt. Brian Murphy, wanting nothing more than to return home from a zombie outbreak stricken Africa, then Murphy and Sgt. Daniel Dembele, the latter trying to find his son, this is a quest film as much as horror, the journey as important as the grue.
For more about The Dead and the The Dead Blu-ray release, see the The Dead Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 26, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Rob Freeman, Prince David Oseia
Directors: Jonathan Ford, Howard J. Ford
» See full cast & crew
The Dead Blu-ray Review
Should The Living take a look at 'The Dead?'
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 26, 2012
We're all dead anyway.
The real appeal of the zombie genre doesn't just come from the guaranteed mutilation and gore -- audiences can find that anywhere -- but in the immediacy, the despair, the hopelessness, the constant fight for survival, the forever-altered landscape where up is down, right is wrong, wrong is right, and where ordinary people are forced to either do extraordinary things or die a miserable death via their refusal or physical or emotional failure to adapt to an environment that all but asks of its survivors to abandon their humanity if they are to save humanity. The genre has positively exploded of late in all forms of entertainment media, namely movies, television shows, video games, and literature. It's escapism entertainment defined, gobbled up by the masses who crave a look at the unreal becoming a terrifying reality of not only blood and guts but an exercise in one of the ultimate games of "what if?" The Dead is the latest to dabble in the genre, the film a visually gritty but stylistically bland entry that mixes the Road Trip movie with a post-apocalyptic African landscape. The picture works on the genre's most basic level, offering up a sobering yet at the same time entertaining glimpse into a world overrun and destroyed by the living dead, but its lack of thematic relevance, terribly linear plot, repetitive cadence, and only occasional successes in stylization make it better suited to genre fanatics rather than the casual fan wondering what all the zombie fuss is about.
U.S. Military mechanic Lt. Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman) is evacuating a ravaged West Africa by aircraft. An incident aboard the plane -- a dead man reanimating as a zombie -- results in catastrophe. The plane goes down, and he washes ashore where he's witness to local undead mutilating the only other survivor. He barely escapes with his life and a few supplies from a crate, including a small-caliber pistol. He makes it further inland, eluding the never-ending stream of undead zombies, but his stamina and supplies are wearing thin. He's saved from certain death by a local soldier named Daniel (Prince David Oseia) who is in search of his missing son. He and Brian team up as they traverse the scorching-hot African landscape in search of reprieve from the dead and a sign of the living. Will they find anything of value, a means of survival, or a sign of Daniel's son before being pushed over the edge and losing all hope to wave upon wave of flesh-eating zombies?
The Dead delivers a Zombie movie experience that's rather unique. It's a picture of actions rather than words, its dialogue sparse and usually succinct, the film relying on atmosphere and situational actions rather than tedious exposition to dominate. It's a raw movie of survival and not a character piece. The film's two primary characters could be anybody, average people simply searching for a way out of a terrible predicament, looking hopelessly for safe haven and a brief reprieve from combating an unstoppable wave of opponents. But therein lies the problem. The Dead is terribly repetitive and rarely moves on from or beyond its schtick. The picture offers up a nearly endless string of scenes where the good guys see the bad guys coming and must work furiously to complete a task before finding themselves at arm's length and mouth's reach of their lumbering adversaries. Every moment of tension is defined by the same two or three scenes playing over and over again. Early on, it's a character struggling to accomplish a task -- opening a crate, changing a tire, digging a vehicle out of the mud -- as zombies slowly approach. Later, it's just zombies approaching wherever it is the characters may be, leaving them either the option of fighting or fleeing. Granted, this is the bread-and-butter of the zombie genre, but The Dead fails to give any real cohesion or purpose to its story outside of raw, repetitive, and random scenes of survival. That's fine and a bit different than superfluous character development, but the repetition in action, cadence, and look grows old rather quickly.
Still, Zombie movie aficionados will find enough goodness here to make The Dead worth a watch. What the film lacks in thematic relevance, character development, non repetitive scenes, and pacing, it makes up for in effort and gore. As to the latter, The Dead proves to be one of the most vicious and unapologetically violent Zombie movies of all time, occasionally even giving Romero's Day of the Dead a run for its money. Smashed heads, ripped flesh galore, and bullet wounds aplenty give the movie a gruesomely realistic edge that should satisfy even the staunchest of gore aficionados. Directors Howard J. and Jonathan Ford give the movie their all, aiming for a stylistic, overly hot, gritty atmosphere that transmits the despair, depravity, heat, and hopelessness of the situation. The novelty of the setting and some of the rather cool and unique areas and events that play into the African environment are a welcome reprieve from the more general zombie settings such as shopping malls and cities. This helps elevate the picture far above bottom-tier Horror and general moviemaking, but not quite up to the level of genre stalwarts that offer more beyond environmental novelty and excess violence. The film is largely harmed by fairly terrible acting; Rob Freeman is better when he's doing rather than saying, and any stretch of more than a few words shows a decided lack of acting chops. Then again, dialogue isn't exactly the film's strength to begin with, which is in large part why it works so well by showing its audience rather than telling its audience of the horrors of the world it portrays.
The Dead Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Dead's 1080p, 1.78:1-framed Blu-ray transfer is fair but uneven. The picture strives to deliver a gritty, sun-scorched image that reflects both the environment and the sense of death and decay within it. Director of Photography Jon Ford has succeed, but the end result is a transfer that won't spring immediately to mind as one of the format's best. The image is hot, with colors primarily of the warm earthen variety. There's very little vibrancy, though objects like a worn out white vehicle hold up nicely amidst the surrounding harshness. Still, there are some soft, blurry shots mixed in. Fine detail is fair; facial textures are often complex, as is the rust, dents, scratches, and overall wear on the aforementioned vehicle. The dusty African terrain looks fairy good, too. Grain is present, but appears frozen in place in several scenes. Blacks are very deep, yielding a bit of crush, while also showcasing some heavy noise in the film's darkest scenes. Edge halos are occasionally evident, too. On the flip side, banding and blocking are largely absent. The Dead's transfer is more effective than it is stable and pretty; the gritty look helps the movie, but in this case doesn't translate extremely well to Blu-ray.
The Dead Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Dead's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack fares a slight bit better than its high definition video counterpart. The track offers fair ambience. Gusty winds never sound quite precise, but screaming people, distant pops of gunfire, and natural environmental atmospherics are handled rather well and play from anywhere and everywhere around the soundstage. Music is adequately spaced and plays with admirable clarity. Bass often plays as a series of deep vibrations rather than tight, looming lows. Gunfire in the middle of the action isn't to the level of perfectly engineered Action films, but the track gets the point across. The chaotic opening sequence inside the doomed plane offers a jumble of sound that drowns out dialogue, but the spoken word -- which is far from prevalent in the movie -- is generally clear. This isn't a memorable soundtrack, but it's efficient and sufficient for the sort of material it supports.
The Dead Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Dead offers three supplements.
The Dead Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ultimately, The Dead may be seen as a terribly frustrating Zombie picture. On the one hand, it's fairly well made, ultra-violent, and plays in a rather unique setting within the landscape of the Horror genre. It exudes a quiet confidence, foregoing excess dialogue and character development in favor of a raw tale of survival in an unimaginably brutal, inhospitable, and dangerous world. On the flip side, the movie is terribly repetitive and is harmed by fairly bad acting. Hence, the picture is constantly struggling between success and failure, ultimately settling into a neutral middle ground that neither accentuates the positives nor disproportionally highlights the negatives. Zombie and Survival Horror fans will want to give it a chance, but casual viewers are encouraged to look elsewhere. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release of The Dead features fair video, decent audio, and a few supplements. Worth a rental.
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The Dead Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: The Dead - February 7, 2012
Blu-ray.com and Anchor Bay Films are offering three Blu-ray.com members the opportunity to win a copy of the Ford Brothers' The Dead, a zombie frightfest set in war-torn Africa. The Dead comes to life on Blu-ray on February 14th.
• The Dead (2010) Blu-ray - November 22, 2011
Next February, Anchor Bay Home Entertainment will release The Dead on Blu-ray. Written and directed by Howard J. Ford and Jon Ford (Distant Shadow), this horror film follows a zombie menace as it ravages the African landscapes of Burkina Faso, French-speaking ...
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