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The Dead (2010)

Director: Howard J Ford & Jon Ford
Starring: Robert Freeman and Prince David Oseia
Certificate: 18
Running Time: 101 minutes
DVD Release Date: 10 October

Lieutenant Brian Murphy (Robert Freeman) is on the last evacuated plane out of an unnamed African city, following what appears to be a worldwide zombie apocalypse. The plane crashes and he’s the sole survivor, washing up on a coast and facing a long trek across unforgiving landscapes to get to safety. Along the way he meets up with Sergeant Daniel Dembele (Prince David Osei), a soldier whose village has been torn apart by zombies and who is now on the trail of his son and they decide to join forces, heading for a military base in the north.

And that, pretty much, is it. A zombified road movie, filmed on location in Burkina Faso, Ghana and the Sahara Desert, this is a beautiful film to look at and every opportunity is taken to show the wide vistas and glorious sunrises/sunsets (several key scenes are shot at ‘golden hour’). Unfortunately, it’s terribly, unforgivably slow.

The zombies – and there are a lot of them – are old-school shamblers and that’s nice to see. However, with the vast open spaces on show here, slow zombies are not something to be particularly afraid of. Plus the director and editor (same person) keep showing the walking dead, wandering into shot, as if we’d forgotten what the threat is: because it is very easy to forget, since this is terribly, unforgivably slow.

The acting is okay, for this kind of thing, though nobody on screen will win any awards. The music is sparse, but well used and the effects, on the whole, are very good with some nice cuts between prosthetics and CGI that are quite shocking at times. However, the film really falls down with the pacing. Whether to highlight the unseen-before locations or for other reasons it’s hard to fathom, Murphy spends a lot of time walking from point A to point B and, once he falls in with Dembele, they spend a lot of time driving from point A to point B. Conversation is limited, but we are treated to long, long two-shots of the leads in the cab of their little truck as they trundle along.

Perhaps it’s because the Ford Brothers undertook a lot of jobs on the project – co-directing, camera operating, editing (Howard), steadicam (Jon) – that they were left to their own devices where what was really needed was for someone to come in and suggest cutting out at least twenty minutes, if not more, from the production. Not a bad film, by any stretch of the imagination and it does try to be different, but the pace will put off anyone other than ardent zombie completists.

MARK WEST

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