Dead and Deader (US - DVD R1)
More zombies, less inspiration, in another made for Sci-Fi feature...
Lt. Bobby Quinn (Dean Cain) is a Special Forces commando killed during a recon mission deep in the Cambodian jungle. But when Quinn interrupts his own stateside autopsy, he discovers that the rest of his dead squad has been resurrected with a ravenous appetite for human flesh. Now with the help of a wisecracking cook (Guy Torry) and a sexy film geek (Susan Ward), the half-zombie Quinn must stop the plague before it can infect the entire nation. Meanwhile, Peter Greene looks desperately for his dignity.
Made for Sci-Fi channel features (most of which, ironically enough, aren't actually made for Sci-Fi) might be the closest thing the United States has to classically bad grindhouse films left. This is especially sad when one considers the fact that the channel censors itself for the masses, but it's still a pretty accurate comparison. The Sci-Fi features are derivative, often lifting plots and scenarios directly from popular Hollywood releases, they're all genre based and easy to pigeon hole, and most importantly, they're made for money, not art.
This particular made for Sci-Fi feature is classically exploitative in that it took its plot from a BBC news item about zombie soldiers in Cambodia. In true made for Sci-Fi fashion the report was made on April first of 2005, and proven false after the film was green lit.
Watching the film with the commentary isn't exactly an eye-opener, but still amusing, as producer Mark A. Altman and writer/producer Steven Kriozere talk almost exclusively about the inspiration of films made less than ten years ago ( Resident Evil, 28 Days Later, the Dawn of the Dead remake). Zombie movie fans will probably be happy to know that Altman had produced three other zombie related flicks before Dead and Deader, until they find out that those three films were House of the Dead, All Souls Day, and House of the Dead 2. It's amazing that the over saturation of bad zombie flicks since 28 Days Later can almost be blamed on a single man.
The film itself really isn't any good, if you hadn't guessed already based on its credentials. The apparently original angle here is that the script is a sort of mix of a buddy action film (the kind Hot Fuzz so effectively lampooned) and a straight-ahead zombie flick (though the last act is very 28 Days Later). This leads to a big pile of clichés, especially where Guy Torry's sub-Eddie Murphy character, who says everything a 'funny black guy' is supposed to say in such a film. The film's biggest faux pas is it's entirely unfunny attempts at comedy.
Also, I hate to break it to the filmmakers, but editor turned director Mark Goldblatt already did the whole 'buddy-cop-meets-zombie' thing in 1988 with Dead Heat. It isn't a great film, but Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo are just more entertaining actors than Torry and poor, poor Dean Cain.
Dead and Deader is cheap, and doesn't embrace its cheapness very well, it tries to look like a real movie, and that just doesn't work. Slow motion, skewed camera angles, under and over cranking are all used at entirely arbitrary moments, but don't hide all the other bland framing and flat lighting. And leaving the ad-break fadeouts on the uncut DVD release is really, really tacky.
But this is about making money, and entertaining lonely teenagers on Saturday nights, not making film history. As far as made for Sci-Fi features go, Dead and Deader is above average, which of course places below average on a real movie scale. The professional actors all do okay, no matter how embarrassed they may look (and Dean Cain looks miserable), as does the relatively inexperienced director, but nobody does anything better than average, and when the script is crap you can't polish it with average.
The anamorpic, 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is nothing to get upset about, but it's not worth celebrating either. Details vary throughout, as do black levels. Noise is present throughout and colours are bright enough, but inconsistent. For a recent production the presence of occasional artefacts is a little strange, but there they are, spotting up my TV. Thankfully we can almost always depend on Anchor Bay (now Starz, apparently) to deliver a progressive transfer, or at least an interlaced one without combing effects.
Dead and Deader was made for the stereo surround capabilities of standard television, so don't expect much from this remixed 5.1 track and you won't disappointed. The track is pretty flat and thin, but the stereo and surround channels do come alive every so often with zombie sound effects, especially during the film's finale. Dialogue is usually well centred, though I noticed a little bleeding, and words are clear. The music is just as uninspired as the film itself, and could use a bit of a bass boost in parts.
This is, unfortunately for me, the second time I've seen Dead and Deader. In utter desperation I watched its Sci-Fi channel premier. In a way this was a blessing because besides a run through as an audio check, I was able to watch the film with the commentary right off the bat. I already mentioned the general theme of the commentary in my film review, but I'll elaborate a bit. Basically the track is your run of the mill information track, and though the lack of director feedback is a little suspicious (the guy is French, so maybe English is difficult for him), the writer's contribution is the most intriguing. Nobody is taking the film very seriously, but there is a smidgen of pretension throughout.
Besides a bunch of trailers for other bad looking made for Sci-Fi and STV titles, a DVD-ROM copy of the script, and a photo gallery, the only other extra here is a EPK, which offers little to no insight into the process of filmmaking. It's basically a trailer.
If you're hard up for zombie entertainment, and have a special affinity to the '80s, then by all means give Dead and Deader a shot. It's not going to kill you to watch it, but don't be surprised if you forget the whole thing the next day. If you're looking for a 'good' (and boy oh boy do I use the term loosely) made for Sci-Fi feature, I'd suggest Abominable, Frankenfish, Mansquito, or S.S. Doomtrooper for pure entertainment value.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 10th April 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Producer, Writer Commentary, Raising the Dead: The Making of Dead & Deader, Photos, DVDROM Script, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Patrick Dinhut
Cast: Dean Cain, Guy Torry, Susan Ward, Peter Greene, Roxanne Arvizu
Genre: Action, Comedy and Horror
Length: 87 minutes
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