The Dead Undead, 2010.
Directed by Matthew R. Anderson and Edward Conna.
Starring Forrest J Ackerman, Joshua Alba, Luke Goss and Matthew R. Anderson.
Vampires vs. Zombies in an isolated woods.
Statistically speaking, you’ve probably made a zombie film. Everyone does, students mostly. They’re just so cool, and there’s something about the undead that resonates with those who sit indoors on sunny days watching horror films. Perhaps there’s an unconscious affiliation between the two. Staring mindlessly at screens and all.
They’re also very malleable. Zombie invasions are great backdrops for other, more human, dramas. Arguably, this is what the best zombie films do. The Dead Undead’s unique selling point is that its zombies are not normal zombies. They’re vampires infected with a zombifying virus.
Films like this don’t often work because they’re usually devised over some stoned, late night. “Yeah, man, zombies are awesome. You know what else is awesome? Vampires. They’ve got spiky canines and all. Who you think would win in a fight?” Presumably their budget didn’t stretch to the other staples of such conversations: dinosaurs and ninjas. The latter are kinda represented, though. There’s a scene where a couple of the vampires kill a whole bunch of zombie vampires with swords. ‘Zombie vampires’ sounds clunky, so the film calls them something else. Zee-Vees.
It’s hard to tell if the script is serious. There’s no real effort to portray this name as a joke by any of those onscreen, but, then again, there isn’t much effort on their behalf for most things throughout. The director seems a lot more concerned with other, more important things. Like explosions and guts and blood and repetitive battle sequences that go on far too long. So, yeah. Zee-Vees. Name-aside, they aren’t particularly scary, anyway. They suffer, quite literally, from overkill. So many are shot dead in the first half of the film that they cease to appear threatening. But it sure doesn’t help having a name that sounds like some passing fad children’s television show.
It isn’t the film’s main flaw – and is, in fact, quite insignificant compared with the quality of the direction, soapy acting and amateur lighting – but it does summarise its fundamental problem in tone. The Dead Undead doesn’t know what it wants to be. Sometimes it seems intentionally tongue-in-cheek. A few jokes are definitely made with such an oral arrangement. But if they are, it’s unclear and doesn’t work. It comes across as forced and immature, just like the smoky, giggly conversations in which you presume the film was originally outlined.
Structurally, it’s all over the place. The film opens with a gang of teenagers who arrive at an empty hotel. It’s in the middle of nowhere, naturally, and they quickly get attacked, and mostly killed, by the Zee-Vees. Then, about 20 minutes later, a different film arrives in an armoured truck outside the hotel. This is where our good-guy, uninfected vampires come in, kitted out in military gear. After five-or-so minutes of them mind-numbingly kicking Zee-Vee bottom, some poor soul strolls in through the woods, from yet another film, looking for his wife. He is there for no reason whatsoever.
The good-guy vampires are blatantly the film’s protagonists, so then why even bother with the teenagers and this jackass who doesn’t even seem to care all that much about where his wife might be. The way the vampires’ characters are developed later on (50 minutes into the film) shows that they were once people, who have been led away from death’s door by a mysterious, cloaked figure. He offers them eternal life as a vampire. Each of their tales is told in flashback, Lost-style. Two of them were Vikings. Another was from the ol’ West, and had killed his entire town after they had executed his parents. It’s cool stuff and should have been recognised as a backbone on which the film could have been built.
But the idea of the vampire back-stories seems like something the filmmakers only thought up half way through shooting. If they had focused on character and plot a lot more, then it would be easier to look past the film’s visibly low-production values. The special effects are alright, but that they seem to have been prioritised over character and plot makes them an annoyance.