The Dead (2010)
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The Dead is an interesting blend of the old and the new; it's an old school zombie story in an original setting.
The film takes place somewhere in western Africa, just after the start of the zombie uprising. We're never told the cause of the outbreak but it's implied that it started locally and several possibilities are hinted at. Our two main characters are Brian, an American flight engineer, and Daniel, a local soldier. Both are played superbly by Rob Freeman and Prince David Oseia respectively. After meeting up the two decide to travel to an army camp and this journey is the spine of the story.
Having a white American and a black African together like this provides good opportunity for some cultural "compare and contrast" and there are of course some points of political and social commentary. Fortunately these never drop into polemic and we're spared the dreadful clichés of the "mismatched buddy movie".
What really makes The Dead special is the setting. Seeing zombies on the plains and in the villages of Africa is something new to me and the strange beauty of the land lifts the film out of the ordinary. The atmosphere is superbly captured by the photography and direction, the slow and peaceful landscape shots contrasting strongly with the claustrophobic panic of the villages under siege from the undead. The Ford Brothers bring a well rounded palette of moods to their film.
Given the nature of the environment it's perhaps appropriate that the zombies in The Dead are traditional shambling Romero rather than the runners that have become popular recently. Combined with great directing and sparsity of dialogue (there's hardly any talking for the first 30 minutes) these produce a genuine feeling of fear and menace that's often missing from more action packed examples of the genre.
The only real problem with the film is the story, which is weak to the point of being almost (but not quite) non-existent. However what little story it does have is well told and well realised, it even has a satisfying ending. Fortunately the tension is present even when the narrative is slow. The film drags a little in the middle and could probably have benefited from being pruned by ten minutes, but that's not enough to cause serious problems.
If you're a fan of creepy, atmospheric zombie movies then The Dead is highly recommended.