“The epitome of style over substance!”
After setting the bar incredibly high from the off with Paul Hyett’s The Seasoning House in 2012, The Dead 2: India was a curious choice for kicking off the weekend’s festivities this year. Given the oversaturation of zombies for well over a decade it’s always a bit of a gamble to put on yet another zombie movie at a horror festival, even more so when it’s the sequel to a rather lukewarm affair (soundtrack aside) from three years ago. Still, we are treated to occasional zombie gems in horror cinema and the continued success of The Walking Dead television and comic series is testament to their popularity.
From the off it’s clear that The Dead 2: India is going to be an incredibly handsome looking film as it showcases the gorgeous Rajasthan in North Western India and could serve as a reasonable tourist video if it weren’t for the hordes of the dead. Strip away the stylish cinematography and – once again – excellent soundtrack and the film starts to wane in appeal. The film follows American engineer Nicholas Burton (Millson) who finds himself romantically entangled with local girl, Ishani (Meenu). When the zombie epidemic (the origins of which are never really explained) breaks out the two lovers find themselves three hundred miles apart. This is also the time when, via a mobile phone call, Ishani decides to inform Nicholas that she’s pregnant. Nicholas is given the chance early on to escape the infected country thanks to the good old US military (isn’t it always the way?) but he decides to pass on this and fight his way through the undead in the hope that maybe just maybe he’ll find himself reunited with his lover and be able to save them both. Immediately suspension of disbelief is broken. Nicholas is armed with a gun but he doesn’t have enough bullets to take on three-hundred miles worth of zombies (although as the film unfolds apparently in classic videogame style he does have infinite ammo after all); the likelihood of her still being alive if he does make it back seems slim; her chances of survival would surely be improved if she were to try and make her way out independently and get to a safe house and – here comes the real difficulty – the romance isn’t believable between the two central characters. There is an absence of genuine affection between the lovers and as the storyline progresses (possible spoiler alert) it is revealed that Nicholas once abandoned a previous lover whilst she was pregnant, so his actual motivation is to avenge his own guilt rather than selflessly save his current lover. On top of this Nicholas befriends a local boy Javed – played excellently by Anand Goyal – and in a manner not too dissimilar from The Road – or any other faux father-son post-apocalyptic scenario – they make their way across India and towards Ishani. It’s sweetly done and you may find yourself connecting with the characters if you can look past the contrived and clichéd nature of it all.
And really that’s what we have here, a film which is the epitome of style over substance and rife full of clichés and plot holes. On top of this it’s yet another film which decides to cast the hero as an American, which for one of the first Indian zombie films stings like a slap to the face. It’s a missed opportunity, as a zombie film which had exclusively focussed on the local would have had the potential to create something far richer. Still it’s not all a waste as it does look and sound good. Then again the acting level is extremely varied and the high level of happy coincidence and cliché will soon grate and frustrate meaning this is only for the most die-hard of zombie fanatics.
When Howard and Jon Ford erupted onto the scene in 2010 with their zombies in Africa slow-burner, The Dead, they were met with mixed reviews, and that’s pretty much what they can expect from its sequel. Nicholas (Joseph Millson) is an engineer finishing a contract out in Africa; when he’s not dangling from a wind-turbine he’s knocking up women, or so it seems. It’s while he’s up a turbine that the shit hits the fan, and instead of taking the promised helicopter, he decides to play hero and make his way through the shambling – almost stationary – hordes to reach his newly impregnated girlfriend, Ishani. With only a magic pistol (which holds more rounds than a space-marine’s pulse rifle) he picks up an orphaned boy, as you do, and takes him along for the ride, mainly across the desert on a motorbike where, even though the zombies are nicely spread out, he manages to almost get his ass chewed off on several occasions. The Dead 2: India clearly has a larger budget than its predecessor, but unfortunately that extra money wasn’t spent on developing a script with a credible lead story at its heart. The relationship between Nicholas and Ishani borders on ridiculous, but that’s not what the film is about. It’s about the sprawling backdrop of another far-flung country. India is clearly a beautiful country when it’s not peppered with the undead, and the excellent cinematography reveals it in all its beauty. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the plot. The Dead 2: India is a decidedly average sequel, only improved by the stunning location.
Directors: Howard J. Ford, Jonathan Ford
Writers: Howard J. Ford, Jonathan Ford
Starring: Joseph Millson, Meenu Mishra, Anand Krishna Goyal
Running time: 90 minutes
FrightFest Screening: 22 August 2013
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