The Dead (2010): Out now on DVD
(18) Running time: 105 minutes
Directors: Howard J. Ford, Jonathan Ford
Writers: Howard J. Ford, Jonathan Ford
Starring: Rob Freeman, Prince David Oseia, David Dontoh
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
It is always exciting when fresh new talent appear in the horror genre, and The Ford Brothers are just that, fresh, new talent who have made a Zombie film as if they had been doing it all their life. Granted Howard has been in the business since his debut feature Mainline Run in 1994, but since then he has only directed one other film before this, a film called Distant Shadow in 200. His brother Jonathan, on the other hand, served as cinematographer on those titles just mentioned. The Brothers wrote this film too, and according to IMDB, Jonathan has never written a film before, and Howard has only written one other film, Mainline Run way back in 1994. All this info may not amount to much if you have not seen The Dead yet, but trust Me, when you see it, these stats suddenly make you notice what skill the Ford Brothers really have. To have such little experience, and to pull off one of the finest Zombie movies in decades, is quite an achievement, and I hope the Ford Brothers are proud of themselves, and I pray that these two do not leave it too long before their next feature.
The Dead is, quite possibly, ground breaking, and in the Zombie genre, that is not an easy task. Considering just how much ground Zombie’s have covered over the decades, to actually come up with something original and unique is something many fans were probably never expecting. Here is proof that there is still life in the old Zombie horror, and here is proof that Zombie films, when done right, can use all those factors that you expect to come with the film, and turn them into something completely new. So, what exactly is it that The Ford Brothers have done to gain so much praise from reviewers? The simplest example is the location, but there is so much more to this film than just where it is set, so let’s find out shall we?
Lt. Brian Murphy (Freeman) is in the last evacuation flight out of war-torn Africa, on his way home to his wife and family, and he can think of nothing else. As the camera enters the plane while in flight we are met with a chaotic scene as a man lies on the floor with his girlfriend screaming for someone to help. We are literally taken out of one warzone and into another as members of the army are holding guns to this unfortunate lad. Murphy looks on, not wanting to get involved, and even when the lad on the floor bites a soldier and ends up shot and killed, Murphy looks on, uneasy, cautious and even a little cold. You get the impression war has ruined this poor guy, and the only thing he cares about is getting home. Sadly, that is not going to happen as the plane crashes and he becomes the sole survivor. We are now blessed with twenty minutes of no dialogue, some staggering use of epic and chilling music, and some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see in a horror film. Murphy has left the plane and is making his way across the desert in the hope of finding someone who can help. Instead he meets Zombies, freely walking around the open desert, wandering aimlessly in search of food, far too slow to catch anything, but they try.
This is where we realise the true power of this unique and powerful film. There is very little dialogue, even when Murphy meets an African soldier whose village and family have been ravaged by a vicious Zombie attack, not much is said. The pair speak, but only when necessary, small talk is not on the agenda here, and the Ford Brothers would rather draw you in with their almost hypnotic mixture of music, setting and terrific camera work. We learn more about the African soldier, called Sergeant Daniel Dembele (Oseia) in a scene that shows what happened to his village where Zombie’s viciously attacked. The pair join forces to find a safe haven where survivors are holed up, and Dembele hopes to find his Son their as soldiers managed to get him out of his village. What follows is a journey of hope, friendship and, in some ways, discovery as the pair from completely different backgrounds bond and work together through all this madness. The directors handle these delicate moments with real skill, and you may even find your emotions put to the test in places. This is a really well told story and, surprisingly considering the lack of dialogue or violence, it will keep you hooked.
I say lack of violence, but when it does come it is brutal, shocking and very real. Zombie’s rip and tear at flesh, victims scream and blood goes everywhere. The lack of violence makes it all the more shocking when it does happen, and the fact our main two characters have become like your friends, the threat of a Zombie attack is far worse than if you were watching a film with multiple characters. The Zombie’s themselves are very well designed, with the directors actually using real life amputees to play some of the parts. With their white, dead eyes and sand covered bodies, these undead really look fantastic. There is no CGI here, so the effects looks superb, and some very clever camera angles allow the makers to pull off some stunning effects. One moment that stands out was a gunshot to a Zombies face, incredibly well shot. There is some real skill here, real quality and this could, and should, be regarded as possibly one of the greatest Zombie films of modern times.
As if all that praise wasn’t enough, finally there is the setting. As I said, this is filmed in Africa, and I know many Zombie films are shot during the day, but there is something quite chilling about seeing a Zombie come casually wandering through a field of dried out plants, or seeing Zombies crawling round the Sahara desert. Locations for the beautiful scenery include Ghana, Burkina Faso, The Sahara Desert and, of course, back here in the UK. There is so much good stuff to say about this film that I could go in all night, but I must stop now and finish off because the longer I waffle on here is the longer you will be away from watching it. Take my advice, if you love Zombie films then you will love this, and if you love horror films with a bit of originality, a little arty and full of brilliance, then you will love it. This is one of the finest horror films I have seen in a while, cracking stuff!