The Ford Brothers have obviously come from the school of Romero with “The Dead,” a film that touts itself as one of the first South African zombie movies ever released. It strives to bring audiences the genre that Romero built in its most traditional sense as a zombie movie where the living must fight to ward off the walking dead, all of whom lumber and groan at the sight of fresh meat. There’s not a runner to be found, which should please traditionalists looking for a dread filled good time and the Ford brothers seemed to have been fed on a strict diet of Romero’s films as their monstrous zombies actually walk in rigomortis stricken pale bodies that turn them in to rather omnipotent and menacing beings.
Especially when they’re plastered across the South African landscape with no escape in sight. Where most modern zombie films rely on the sprinting undead to do the work of menace and terror, The Ford Brothers instead create a rather oppressive and awfully stifling breed of the undead. Not a single moment passes where there isn’t some form of the walking dead in the frame and they move so slowly but can amount in groups ready to pounce unsuspectingly on their human hosts. Rob Freeman is competent as Lt. Brian Murphy, a surviving American mercenary who washes ashore the African countryside when his plane filled with escaped American refugees crashes. Now looking for a way home to his wife and daughter, he must rely on his wits and survival know how to make it to a safe haven where he can contact the US and hopefully get a ride home.
But as he treks deep in to the African terrain met with endless hordes of the walking dead and bleak circumstances, he can only hope and pray for safety as the numbers rise. He pairs with an African soldier named Daniel and the two form an uneasy partnership that really does make the film a valuable road trip movie for a while. I had a good time wondering where the duo would end up next and if they would ever trust one another in the midst of the carnage. As mentioned the Ford brothers fill every frame with some form of a walker, so the suffocation of their rising numbers takes its toll creating an effective sense of dread and bleak hopelessness. Like “Dawn of the Dead,” the walkers are nearly everywhere one turns and their numbers are endless.
As they creep and crawl along the sand, they become enemies that are not to be reckoned with, even when traveling in heavy numbers. As a lover of the post-apocalyptic sub-genre, I had a great time with “The Dead” and was pleased to see the Halloween season greeted with a wonderful zombie film that takes pages from films like “Dawn of the Dead,” “Day of the Dead” and even “Zombi.” The hopeless, endless picture painted by the Ford brothers will keep zombie loyalists sleepless for days and it’s a surefire bet this gem will be appreciated by folks tired of the dead running around and bouncing off walls. A bonafide gem of a zombie picture, “The Dead” is a dread filled homage to the classic zombie pictures of the seventies and eighties filled with guts, gore, and grue galore. Be sure to check this jewel out where ever it’s available.