The Dead, which opened October 28 at the Bijou and Santikos Mayan 14, is a unique film in many respects. For starters, it is set in Burkina Faso and Ghana, instead of the usual LA, New York, or London.
“Stories of zombies originated in the West African spiritual belief system of voodoo, which told of people being controlled as laborers by a powerful wizard, before being appropriated by the movie industry,” said Howard Ford, co-director of the film with his brother Jon.
It is shot in 35 mm and, as Ford said, “with a respect the zombie genre hasn’t seen for decades.”
It is also unique because this is the only zombie movie in which the scares are not necessarily the film’s most relevant qualities. Yes, when one of the zombies finally manage to secure his meal of the day (usually some guy’s leg, arm, or nose), the effects are believable and there’s enough blood for three sequels. But, for the most parts, all you have to do to avoid the African zombies is walk at your regular speed — this guys are slooow, to the point of making the zombies in Night of the Living Dead look like Usain Bolt. But the directors wanted it that way.
“You lose something fundamental with these so-called running zombies,” said Ford. “When an attacker is moving fast, the scene has no choice but to become an action scene and when you are shooting action, you lose suspense, and suspense is ultimately more powerful.”
The movie’s greatest triumph is its cinematography. In The Dead, you don’t see humans running for their life and holing up in some supermarket or grocery store: here, the humans are out in the open, and they have to keep moving and changing stunning scenario after stunning scenario. It is a gorgeous-looking mix of George Romero and Sergio Leone.
The Ford brothers made their name shooting commercials in England, and they know how to show beauty. The Dead has that pristine, epic look of a National Geographic movie; add zombies to the mix, and you’re witnessing something new and horrific. Yet, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen.
The plot? Who cares! An American soldier is the only survivor of a plane crash, shows up at a beach full of zombies and starts shooting heads. He meets an African soldier who has his own shit to deal with, and they help each other attain their goals, and bla bla bla. Forget about the story and prepare for a trip unlike any other.
The Dead (R)
Dir. and writ. Howard J. Ford, Jonathan Ford; feat. Rob Freeman, Prince David Oseia, David Dontoh (R)
4522 Fredericksburg (at Crossroads Mall)
Santikos Mayan Palace 14
1918 S.W. Military Drive