How do you take a tired old genre like the zombie film and make it more interesting? Well, there’s a few things you can do. You can change up what type of zombies you use. For example, you can use slow, ambling ones or quick, smart ones, or you can change the time or setting of your story, for example, setting it in the old west, as writer and director Rene Perez has done with this film. He set this one in the old west, which was rather a novel concept. I can think of at least one other zombie film set in the old west. Unfortunately, because of casting and some poor characters, it was just ok. So how does this film fare? Well, let me tell you what it’s about first, and then we’ll get to that.
Mortimer (David Lockhart) is a bounty hunter, and a damn good one. In fact, he’s gotten so good at it that he only has one other bounty hunter that’s any competition for him, and that’s a guy known only as "The German" (Robert Amstler). He has his reasons for doing what he does. He was in love with a girl, and one night, he took her innocence against her will and got her pregnant. Now he’s trying to make things right by paying the mortgage on the ranch her and her mother live on. He’s collected quite a bit of money, but now he’s got an opportunity at a big bounty that will really push him over the top. A local Indian caled Brother Wolf has been accused by a mine owner of raping and killing his daughter. Now it’s Mortimer’s job to bring him back. While on the way to find him though, he buys himself a white girl named Rhiannon (Camille Montgomery) from a guy who’s selling three girls as either wives or whores. She’s unwilling, but goes along with him anyway. He tells her that he doesn’t want sex from her, and that if she just cooperates with him for twenty-four hours and does what he says, he’ll give her her freedom. She goes along, and he uses her as the bait to draw out Brother Wolf. We find out later though that not only is Brother Wolf not a rapist or a murderer (he was actually in love with and dating the mine owner’s daughter and it was the mine owner that killed her), but they have way bigger problems than the bounty, false accusations or anything else. See, a couple of the locals found a meteor that had fallen, and took it back to town. Once back, they cracked it open, and a green gas came out, killing everyone that was exposed to it and turning them into the fast moving, intelligent type of zombies. Well, most of them anyway. There seemed to be kind of a mixed bag with regard to the types, but needless to say, there were a lot of them. Now Mortimer, Rhiannon, Brother Wolf and even The German have to deal with the zombie infestation in an attempt to survive. Will they? You’ll have to watch to find out.
While I appreciate the ambition behind the film, the film as a whole comes off as rather mediocre, in large part because of the acting, much of which was just ok, but never really rose to any level that was better than that.
The zombies in the film were acually really well made up, but there was something about them that made them less scary than they should have been. There was almost never any sense of tension when they were around. If they saw someone who was alive, they chased after them and attacked. There was one exception to this though. Rhiannon had been bitten and was placed in a building while Mortimer and Brother Wolf tried to prepare a place where they could defend against the zombies. While she was passed out in there, a blind zombie came in and was feeling around for her using both it’s sense of smell and hearing. This scene was particularly creepy and suspenseful and very well done. I only wish there had been more suspenseful scenes like this in the film.
The story was actually pretty decent. There were no loose ends, the characters were well defined and everything made sense. This went a long way to making up for some of the film’s other shortcomings and made it actually pretty enjoyable to watch.
On a technical level, the film was really well made. The camera work was excellent, the props and settings all looked great, the costuming was well done and the zombie make up looked pretty damn decent. The sound was good throughout, as was the lighting, and the editing moved the film along at a good pace. Nothing ever felt like it was really dragging or will have you reaching for the fast forward button. All in all, it was a well made film.
If you’re looking for a zombie film that delivers something different, this is a pretty decent film. It’s not the best zombie film out there, but it’s certainly not the worst. It has characters you can actually root for, which in and of itself makes it far better than other movies where you sit there wishing that everyone would just die already so it could be over. It’s probably not a film you’d watch more than once or twice, but it is definitely worth seeing.
If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out the film’s website at http://thedeadandthedamnedmovie.com.