It’s hard to believe that a film I had considerable trouble sitting through without covering my eyes was directed by Corbin Bernsen of all people. This is the man who takes pride in starring in some of the worst horror movies ever made, and here he’s directed a film that has outweighed its double “Pontypool” in every aspect. While many were out celebrating the existence of the indie horror film about a radio DJ experiencing the end of the world through the radio, I sat waiting for something better from this concept and wouldn’t you know it? Here comes “Dead Air,” a movie that possesses basically the same concept and story and pulls off much more suspense and tension than “Pontypool” actually does.
Re-teaming Bill Moseley and Patricia Tallman from Tom Savini’s “Night of the Living Dead,” Bernsen’s film plays more to the tune of pure anarchy than “Pontypool” does as star Bill Moseley gives a rousing performance as radio DJ Logan who is given the task of broadcasting the end of the world in the confines of his small radio station. Thanks to a bio-weapon crafted by terrorists, most of the city’s denizens become raging maniacs prone to murdering those without the sickness. Bernsen manages to set the tension and suspense quite well with a story that just amps up the pressure minute by minute. Not only does Bernsen craft the film to take every element and form it to become a presence all on its own. Take the radio station for instance which transforms from a small humble residence in to a claustrophobic death trap where every crevice is a possible entrance for the monsters outside the door. Thanks to Moseley’s almost effortless performance, we’re able to see the horror in his eyes as this mere riot becomes much more than a public disturbance.
The terror amps up considerably as he becomes much more irate and exhausted with every call from a listener who manages to bring their experience to their doorstep and anxiously stress to others on the outside that what is happening is almost ungodly. This terrorist attack takes entirely new realms as it becomes uncontrollable to even the men who begat it. We not only get to see these people holed up in the radio station fight for survival, but we also get to experience the terrorists efforts to escape the clutches of their own creations. While many would call this a zombie movie, it really isn’t, even though Bernsen dabbles in the sub-genre considerably. Much of the second half plays like one as Moseley’s character Logan is desperate to communicate with his missing wife and daughter and enlists the help of his friends to scour the city and search for them. This becomes a particularly arduous task when the ratio of infected to healthy becomes great and they’re forced to reach a decision that could mean doom for one of them.
Bernsen never shies away from the madness as we get to see the pure carnage inflicted by this outbreak as crowds of the infected wreak pure havoc on the city and force our heroes to hide out in a building they can no longer rely on. Sadly most of the climax lags as it basically falls on the predictable side where our hero Gil decides to take the chance and look for Logan’s daughter and wife in the city filled with the raving mad and insane. We know his heroic efforts won’t pay off and Bernsen doesn’t deliver much of a surprise when we finally learn of his fate. Meanwhile the movie becomes absolutely preachy once Logan is held hostage and is forced to mouth off on the radio about our society. This is where Bernsen simply stops trying to give us a horror film and instead decides to become self-important and provide social commentary about our hysteria concerning terrorists and our basic xenophobia.
It becomes very hypocritical to spout off about our hatred towards foreigners when the entire film’s premise is set in to motion by actual terrorists. It is just painfully out of place and completely takes away from the experience. Not to mention the whole “The End…?” closing scene is also terribly forced and rather cliché. It becomes apparent writer Kenny Yakkel has nowhere to go once he takes our characters outside the radio station. Bernsen has great potential as a horror director and delivers a real bang for our buck. In the end, “Dead Air” is a much more satisfying experience than “Pontypool.” And once again I’m in the minority here saying this. But I’m okay with that because I consider “Dead Air” to be a pretty creepy and intense experience. It’s worth the watch if you’re in the mood for Bill Moseley’s always enjoyable acting.