Zombie movies are as plentiful as topsoil, but Judge David Johnson thinks this comedy horror flick stands out.
Good and gooder?
Another day, another zombie film. So what can Dead and Deader offer the teeming hordes of genre fans that any of the quadrillion other zombie flicks can't? Lots, I think.
Facts of the Case
An incursion by U.S. Special Forces into Cambodia ends in tragedy, when the entire squad is ambushed and wiped out. Their bodies are packed up and sent back home, but one of the soldiers, Lieutenant Quinn (Dean Cain), wakes up just before his autopsy. Stunned, the doctors take his vitals and despite his obvious motor-neurological function, he is legitimately dead. Quinn and the doctors have little time to delve into his condition because all hell breaks loose as Quinn's squad-mates start rampaging through the Army facility as flesh-eating zombies.
Joining with Judson, the plucky chef (Guy Torry), Quinn manages to escape the compound before getting mauled by the undead. Their escape takes them to an out-of-the-way bar where they meet Holly (the beautiful Susan Ward), a film student who is thrust unto the nightmare when the zombie soldiers lay siege to the bar. This unusual trio must now unravel the secret to the infection and halt the plague before it spreads to the civilized world.
Yep, nothing hugely innovative-sounding in that synopsis, huh? Aside from a few genre tweaks, the textbook humans versus zombies play-by-play is in full effect. But Dead and Deader, despite sporting the familiar trappings of the many films before it, is great fun and distinguishes itself from the pack with sharp, funny humor, rampant self-deprecation, and solid gore work. It's a film that is obviously made by people with a love for the genre, and that adoration shows. In short, if you're hankering for a gory, funny zombie comedy (and you've watched Shaun of the Dead to death), you should give this one a spin.
The best thing Dead and Deader has going for it is its humor, which is honest-to-goodness funny, and not even "funny-for-a-low-budget-zombie-movie." There are plenty of laugh-out-loud lines and the actors, while not hamming up it so much that they besmirch the production, have a lot of fun with their characters and obviously have a decent sense of humor about themselves. Just check out the '80s-riffic costumes the filmmakers had Cain (dressed as a Miami Vice cast-off), Ward (um, a former member of Bananarama?) and Torry (this is thriller!) clad in for the entire third act of the film. There's a definite sense of good times evident throughout the runtime and it's—and this is going to be bad, so heads up—infectious. Screenwriters Steve Kriozere and Mark Altman are obvious film geeks, and their sharp script shows. Loads of pop culture reference are sprinkled in, from Halo to a comparison of the original and remake of Dawn of the Dead (Quinn: "The remake kicked ass.") The prize for greatest nerd banter goes to a random conversation between two G.I.'s about who is the best James Bond. Man, that conversation could have been lifted verbatim from any online film message board. Geeks, these dudes are one of your own.
The other aspect of the zombie comedy genre is the "zombie," and the film delivers on this front too. Likely taking a cue from Capcom's Resident Evil 4, the source of the infection this go-round is a rare breed of scorpion, which can extend a human being's life (a plot point focused more on the third act when perennial bad guy-character-actor Peter Green enters the scene), but have the nasty side effects of the zombie mayhem. Quinn was able to escape this fate by cutting out the scorpion before it did too much damage, thus giving him super zombie powers (healing, strength, advanced sense of smell, etc.) without the need to eviscerate the closest person. He is able to wreak much havoc on other zombies though, and this translates into cleverly staged kill scenes. Zombies are face-fried on a grill, fed into a hamburger grinder and, of course, shot in the head a whole lot. Meanwhile, many bystanders meet their end with much plumes of red goo, and director Patrick Dinhut utilizes the services of his talented gore effects crew to keep the floors sticky.
Anchor Bay offers another solid treatment, unleashing the film with a decent 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and 5.1 surround mix. Extras include a lengthy making-of documentary, audio commentary with the two writers, a photo gallery and a DVD-ROM accessible script.
Okay, in sum, Dead and Deader: funny, bloody and, ultimately a worthy addition to anyone's ever-expanding zombie collection. A solid B-plus B-movie.
Not guilty. Chow down.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Starz Home Entertainment
• "Raising the Dead" Making-of Documentary
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