Die, The Beloved Country: THE DEAD

Zombie films are a dime a dozen these days.  Any hack with a camera and some cheap stage make up seems to fancy him or her self  the modern day George A. Romero , and as such, the once terrifying, disease carrying, shambling metaphor for death has become as terrifying as a Smurf.

And then along comes The Ford Brothers', The Dead.

Set in West Africa, The Dead is a throw back to the kind of zombie film, Romero was making back in his heyday. Bleak, stark, serious and layered with political and social undertones, The Dead is a far cry from the mindless, CGI enhanced zombie movies being served up lately.  Told in a slow, deliberate manner, shot in 35 mm; The Dead has a sort of sweeping epic feel to it - frankly it's the sort of thing movie goers (especially horror film fans), don't get a lot of these days.

What starts like a  Lawrence of Arabia meets Night of the Living Dead hybrid ( a lone figure in desert garb traversing the Saharan landscape whilst dodging or shooting a few really, really, really, slow zombies) eventually  reveals itself to be the story of two men looking for hope in a hopeless world.  One of the men, Brian (Rob Freeman) is trying to  find a plane so he can leave zombie-riddled Africa and get back home to his wife and daughter in the United States) - the other man, Daniel (Prince David Oseia) is trying to find his way to a refugee camp to locate his missing son.  Both men are military, and while one is mourning the living death of his beloved country, and the other trying to find his way out, both men bond and form a kinship that is both touching and heartfelt.  Despite the hardships and the misunderstandings, they come to depend on the other and a realistic relationship is formed...again, not the kind of thing one gets in modern film very often.
If this film has a heart, it beats in the chest of  Prince David Oseia who brings such realism to the goings on.  His character is a decent man who may have been called on to do unspeakable things in the past as his nation was bled dry from civil wars, famine and disease.  However, now, when a new enemy has materialized he understands that all men and women must work together to defeat the common foe or else what's the point of living( gosh, that's a lesson for these times).   Honestly, I have never heard of this actor before, but he pretty much owns The Dead, and I am expecting big things from him in the future.
But wait a second, you kids came here for the zombies, didn't you?  Well, fear not, because they are everywhere.  As ubiquitous as flies, the pale-eyed-living-dead shamble through the forests, jungles and deserts of The Mother Land.  These flesh eaters are slow, deliberate and stealthy. No running, no screaming, just the ever constant threat of them at every turn.  Truly, some of the most eerie scenes of The Dead occur as our heroes drive through the African wilderness at night, the headlights of their car picking up views of the ever present, ever shambling zombies that litter the landscape (these scenes bring to mind Val Lewton's I walked with a Zombie) .
Another aspect of The Dead that is spectacular, is the photography.   The African landscapes are at times breathtaking, while at other times they appear stark and barren - much like the continent itself.   I for one, found myself gasping at some of the scenery it was that impressive - make of that what you will.
In the end, The Dead will probably alienate most modern audiences who have come to expect hackneyed plots, running zombies, jump cuts and gags - and that's a pity, because this is the kind of film that does not come along very often.    I can't help but wonder what Romero thinks of this one (or if he's even seen it), but I suspect that he would approve of the film, and more importantly of its message; lying deep in the soul of this dark, disturbing, (and at times) gory movie is a message about the undying spirit of human kindness and, yes, hope.


deadlydolls said...

Agreed! I'd read about this in Fangoria and was really excited to see it. One of the directors came to Rock 'n Shock and was so enthusiastic and friendly that I knew I'd get to it soon, then a pal who knows nothing about movies went and randomly got it for me for my birthday. The film is beautifully shot and genuinely scary. My only irk was that there was just way too much light in the nighttime scenes to add to the kind of stark darkness feel, but overall, such a great new entry into the zombie canon. I'm excited to see where the Ford Brothers go next.

Pax Romano said...

Emily, agreed, I can't wait to see what these guys do next. I just wish I'd seen this at a theater, it must have looked phenomenal.

Chris H said...

Excellent write up, Pax!

I'm VERY eager to see this one. Wish I hadn't had to wait for DVD, but alas, that's how it goes when the theater is crowded with so much quality like Mysterious Island 2 and Ghost Rider 2.

Pax Romano said...

Chris, I can't wait to see what you thought about it. It's an extremely effective film.

BunBun4life said...

I did not read your review, because depending on what you said, it will affect what I want to say XD XD

I had no pre-warning or knowledge of this movie. My wonderful movie hound hubbie (and zombie hound, like me as well) just popped it in one day! I could not fucking believe it. Cinematic fucking masterpiece.

The zombies were the sickest most realistic dead people moving I've ever seen.

KUDOs to special effects artists in this. Believe me, I'm also a 'true gore' aficionado (sounds sick, but I don't know how else to explain it - I have fucking 20 GIGABYTES of photographs of hurt and dead people on my computer) I KNOW from real is what I'm trying to say.

This just blew me away, it was different, and it felt real; not stupid.

I was disappointed at the ending though. But I'm a real stickler for full endings, with no questions remaining.

Samuel said...

Some really impressive, underrated indie horror and sci-fi has been coming 'out of Africa' for some time now, and it goes way beyond DISTRICT 9. In kind for the great review of this movie, I would like to recommend (if you can find it) another earlier film that is similar in scope, DUST DEVIL. (But you've probably already seen it...)

Pax Romano said...


I've never seen Dust Devil - I will seek it out.