While we could have written about any number of love-themed horror masterpieces in celebration of this once-a-year excuse to devour copious amounts of unrealistic, heart-shaped chocolates I decided it would be much more fun to talk about zombies instead. Because, really, what’s more romantic than a deceased loved one trying to eat your brains?
On the other hand, THE DEAD is anything but romantic. Rather, a bleak journey through the war torn terrain of West Africa, The Dead is a slow-paced but highly entertaining zombie flick that follows a stranded American Air Force Engineer (Rob Freeman) and a West African soldier (Prince David Osei) as an unlikely duo who teams up to salvage what’s left of their lives after a zombie outbreak. It’s simultaneously harsh and stunning with an overarching sense of doom that hangs over the entire cast like a ceremonial death shroud.
Gloom and doom aside, the print quality of the film itself looks spectacular. Shot on 35mm film in Burkina Faso and Ghana (the first horror film entirely filmed in Africa, according to Anchor Bay), the sun-baked reel shares the gritty look of its predecessors, namely the work of George A. Romero. That’s not all the film shares with Romero’s Living Dead franchise, it also takes aim at a few sociopolitical issues. Some of the most disturbing elements of horror come not from the zombies, but the quieter moments when the camera pans to the bodies of executed villagers littering the ground.
The zombies are your classic, slow-moving variety, which makes them all the more menacing when two turns into twenty in the blink of an eye; the tall grass providing excellent cover. Speaking of the zombies, they are every bit as disturbing as you’d imagine them to be without reducing them to poor, CGI-rendered husks. In fact, all of the effects used throughout the film seem to be practical effects with prosthetics, make-up and sound design used seamlessly to make every sickening sound of bones crushing and flesh tearing serve as a bittersweet reminder to the viewer that we’re nothing more than voyeurs of this horrifying reality.