“The Dead” is a low-key, African-set zombie horror character study. How many of those have you seen recently?
Directed by the Ford Brothers in 2010, the film follows Murphy (Rob Freeman) and Dembele (Prince David Oseia) as they grapple with the mundane realities of surviving an implacable, tireless and omnipresent plague of the undead. I’m not exaggerating when I state the scope of the threat. Though this is clearly a film with a low budget, the focus is very much on the shuffling hordes of intestine-munching horrors who are rarely far away from our protagonists, just waiting for them to get tired and stop long enough to be devoured.
Murphy is an American private military contractor whose flight out of the hot zone crashes. Finding himself washed up on a beach, he scrabbles to find weapons to protect himself, transportation and supplies to keep himself alive. After encountering soldier Dembele who saves him from certain death when his car gets stuck, the two men travel across hostile country to get to an airfield where engineer Murphy hopes that he can find a plane and repair it – Dembele just wants to keep the car so that he can search for his young son.
It’s this matter-of-fact treatment which makes the film worth watching – the threat is constant, the dangers are as much from the environment and simple mechanical failures as anything more high concept or based in contrivance and the acting is refreshingly unhistrionic. When was the last time that you saw a zombie horror film where the simple act of finding clean drinking water was a source of triumph?
If you want your zombie tales to be slick and propulsive, you might want to skip this, but I found it a refreshing change of pace from the usual ‘set-em-up, knock-em-down’ school of horror movies which followed Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” remake. It’s a beautifully-shot and oddly thoughtful tale of survival against impossible odds.