We've been through Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, and Land of the Dead -- and the remakes, too. We've seen Diary of the Dead, Survival of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, and several different examples of Return of the Living Dead. City of the Living Dead and Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things -- but now we're offered The Dead, plain and simple. And I'm not talking about the old John Huston movie called The Dead because that's a dramatic film and this website is called FEARnet.
Hardly the final word in zombie apocalypse mayhem, but certainly "familiar-yet-novel" enough to keep fans of the ravenous undead satisfied, The Dead was shot in Africa by a pair of British brothers (John and Howard Ford), and the film clearly comes from a group of filmmakers who learned a lot from zombie lord George Romero -- and I'm not just talking about splattery gore effects.
The Dead is a none-too-subtle political allegory that also works as a blood-soaked and grim "horror road" movie. Our protagonists are a pair of reluctant partners (one black, one white) who must trek across some of Africa's most zombie-laden landscapes if they have any hope of survival. One needn't be an expert on world affairs to piece together the film's slightly satirical messages -- be they social, political, or racial in nature -- but the Ford brothers do a very fine job of keeping things creepy and consistently unsettling while trying to make their larger points.
The endless stream of zombies, most of which arrives in broad daylight, makes for a quietly oppressive antagonist. In most zombie movies the attacks come "en masse" or quietly in the dark, but in The Dead, they're quite simply everywhere. The film offers some ironically gorgeous natural landscapes, but there are lone, shuffling zombies peppered across every hill.
If The Dead slows down a bit more often than it needs to -- and if the two leads don't exactly make all that huge of an impression -- those are small complaints in the face of a very fine zombie flick that borrows a little bit here and there, but also marks some new ground of its own. Gorehounds will adore the old-school splatter and non-stop brain-smashing, and those with a taste for some of the old undead-friendly social commentary should also appreciate what the Ford brothers have cooked up here.