You know my love will not fade away
With zombies being all the rage in horror now, writers and directors are in search of new ways to break away from the pack and be something special. Some use more special effects, or better makeup, or bigger stars, or viral campaigns to get the audience's attention. What many fail to realize is that while the blood, guts, and flesh-eating is a lot of fun and certainly memorable, it's the story that makes a lasting impact. If you don't have the story then nothing else really matters and you movie just becomes another zombie film, thrown into the dollar bin at a gas station, never to be viewed. Social commentary is also an important aspect of zombie movies, but many zombie movies forget that. Take away the story and the commentary, all you have is some blood and violence. That can entertain the individual (usually one that dwells in a basement, surrounded by Evil Dead action figures), but it does not entertain the masses and makes for a boring watch.
The Dead is a 2010 horror movie starring Rob Freeman (Smallville, Dark Angel) as Lt. Brian Murphy. Murphy is an American engineer that survives the crash of the last evacuation flight out of Africa. The continent has been overrun by slow-moving zombies with no help in sight. Murphy finds a broken down truck and is able to get it running before being devoured by zombies. After a short time, the truck gets stuck in the mud. As the zombies close in on him, Murphy is saved by an African soldier, Sgt. Daniel Dembele (Prince David Oseia). Together, they are able to free the truck and Daniel joins Murphy in his search for help. Daniel reveals that he has deserted the army to search for his young son who was rescued by soldiers. They arrive at an airport in hopes of finding a plane, but the buildings are abandoned. The get gas and set out for a safe haven in the desert. During the trip, the truck hits a tree, breaking the axle. They sleep outside during the night and Daniel is bitten by many zombies. Before dying, he asks Murphy to find his son. Will Murphy be able to reach the safe haven and find Daniel's son and has the zombie outbreak spread to the United States where Murphy's wife and daughter live?
Rocks, my mortal enemy!
Before I can get to the story, I have to address the blatant racism in The Dead. Now, I don't think the writers or director had the intention to be racist. The movie brings to mind the criticism that Resident Evil 5 faced when it first came out, showing a white character shooting black characters. Most of the movie is just scenes of Murphy, who is white, shooting zombies, who are all black. Some may argue that they're just zombies and race shouldn't matter, but it is too much to ignore, especially given Africa's history of oppression enslavement by white Europeans. To make matters worse, when Murphy kills a bunch of zombies, saving a group of Africans, they praise him as their savior, even pouring water into his mouth. That just doesn't sit well with me. By having a zombie movie set in Africa, they had a chance to make some real social commentary, but didn't even attempt to do anything of the sort.
As for the story, it barely exists and is extremely boring to sit through. A majority of the movie is just Murphy and Daniel driving around the desert, getting out to fix the truck or get supplies, be surrounded by zombies, and then driving off. I don't think we ever learned what caused the zombies as there is very little background given. It's not like they had to ignore because the story was so great or the action so fast-paced. Speaking of action, it's one of the few bright spots in the movie. There is a decent amount of blood and some good feeding scenes. The zombies don't have much makeup beyond some powder and contact lenses, but it works fine. I didn't even know what the characters' names were until about half-way through the movie. There's not much in the way of character development and their motivations are too basic. The acting is pretty mediocre, but it's not like they had much to work with. The direction is weak as well, with certain scenes lingering too long or shots far too close to the actors.
He may be dead, but his fashion sense is alive and kicking
There are certain expectations when watching a zombie movie. Blood and gore are fun, but it should not be the sole focus. A good zombie movie requires a thoughtful story, strong characters, and social commentary. The Dead goes 0-for-3 as the story is incredibly boring and weak, there is no real character development, and the movie doesn't even scratch the surface of social commentary. What could have been a good opportunity to explore the issues of class and race, were completely ignored in favor of a white soldier killing a lot of African zombies. The Dead is dissapointing on many levels and boring to boot. It was probably called The Dead because they couldn't come up with a creative adjective, noun, verb, or adverb.