According to Judge Paul Pritchard there's nothing like a good zombie flick...and this is nothing like a good zombie flick.
They Are Coming To Get You…Again!
I was raised to believe that if you can't say anything nice, you shouldn't say anything at all. The problem here is that, in the case of Dead Eyes Open, I wouldn't be able to write a review.
The first German zombie movie I've come across, Dead Eyes Open plays it simple and follows a fairly standard zombie film structure. A group of twenty-something's take a trip to the woods in an attempt to escape the trappings of the modern world, such as cell phones and computers. Unfortunately their timing couldn't have been any worse as the dead have started rising from the grave; something they are want to do when there's no more room in hell. Standard horror conventions are obeyed, and the group split up and find themselves being picked off by local nutjobs and the growing numbers of the undead. Well, I say growing numbers, I think I counted about twelve.
As luck would have it, Dead Eyes Open was the second horror movie I sat through today, the other being a re-release of Dario Argento's Inferno. In a strange way the two films share a number of traits, yet offer a starkly different experience. Both films contain laughable acting, throwaway dialogue and plots that are either incoherent or barely worth mentioning. Where they differ, and this is crucial, is in their approach to the subject matter and their ability to create a suitable atmosphere. Whereas Inferno sees Argento eschewing a traditional narrative in favor of creating a gorgeously realized, almost dream-like piece that is drenched in foreboding, Dead Eyes Open reveals Ralf Mollenhoff to be a director interested only in mimicry. Perhaps it is unfair of me to compare the work of Mollenhoff, a debutant director, with a celebrated master of the macabre like Argento. However, I'd argue that regardless of experience, there's no excuse for a lack of imagination and that, post-Tarantino, aren't we all getting just a little tired of modern cinemas fascination and constant homages to the past? The finale of Dead Eyes Open, which mercilessly references both Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead, is childish and serves absolutely no purpose other than to show that Mollenhoff has watched a few classic zombie movies. By the same token I could reference Tatooine, but it wouldn't make my review Star Wars.
Not wanting to knock Mr. Mollenhoff too much, but the film reminded me in no small part of the zombie flick some friends and I made back in our high school days. Like most kids whose parents had a video camera, we would occasionally mess about and make a movie. Our final project, which took a whole days worth of shooting—something unheard of for us back then—was a zombie epic (running time: 10-minutes approx) that mercilessly aped Romero's Dawn of the Dead and Peter Jackson's Bad Taste. Clearly I should have stuck at it, as, given a bigger budget, I too may have had a movie released with one of my horror heroes making a cameo appearance. I'm struggling to actually find anything nice to say about Mollenhoff's direction, so I'll just thank him for keeping the movie relatively short at 85-minutes.
George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) makes an appearance that will do little to sway his detractors, but serves as the single high point of the film. The rest of the cast is simply terrible. Sorry to be so blunt, but it's true. When even the actors portraying the undead are unconvincing, you know you're in trouble. Most of the "zombies" here simply stumble around like teens after one-too-many on a Saturday night.
The back of the DVD case boasts "carefully-crafted special effects." Now, what they mean here is that they've attempted to re-create the effects used in titles such as Dawn of the Dead, where in reality they've just ended up with crappy effects that even trash like Zombie Nosh betters.
Visually Dead Eyes Open is awful, just awful. I appreciate that the filmmakers have attempted to reproduce the "gritty visual style" of '70s horror movies, but rather than the sharp looking Planet Terror, we get a headache inducing mess. The audio is just as bad, and if you hadn't already guessed, the only language track is in German so you'll be needing your reading glasses, folks. A making of and slideshow make up the supplemental materials, and do little to change my perception of the film as anything other than an amateurish production.
Useful for learning German curse words only, Dead Eyes Open is the absolute nadir of the zombie genre.
"Shoot it, man! Shoot it in the head!"
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