Sometimes going back to basics is the best recipe for a good horror movie. Everything today is either about going bigger, badder and more over the top, or subverting expectations. We get zombie wildlife, zombie gangsters, zombie sex, and so forth. But what happened to traditional zombie survival stories reminiscent of Romero’s early days?
Fortunate for hardcore zombie fans there are a handful of filmmakers producing the classic flesh eating zombie movies we came to love from the 70s and 80s. Two such filmmakers who’ve been hard at work the past few years are the Ford Brothers.
The Dead (2010) and The Dead 2: India (2013) are classic Romero style survival films set during the initial days of zombie outbreaks. The Dead takes place in West Africa, following an American mercenary, played by Rob Freeman, whose plane crashes on the African coast during the first days of the undead rising. As a result he must run the gauntlet across the African landscape to get somewhere he hopes can provide him transport back home.
The Dead 2: India has more or less the same premise only this time we follow an American contractor, the excellent Joseph Millson, who must battle his way several hundred miles to Mumbai to rescue his girlfriend as the undead outbreak spreads.
The Ford Brothers clearly have a vision for the type of movies they wanted these to be, focusing in on
the survival horror elements and conscience of budgetary constraints. Both films are centered on a small number of characters as they search for resources, vehicles and other necessities to survive. The special effects consist of latex and fake blood. CGI is kept to an extreme minimum, used only when necessary to show a few sweeping shots or mass carnage in both films.
The bread and butter of these movies comes from the step-by-step storytelling and well handle
d tension from scene to scene. The Ford Brothers understand what made Romero’s movies scary and thrilling, making sure the zombie threat is ever present. These are slow moving zombies, the type that amble in the background adding the scenery in just about every shot. It’s not until they begin to get close, closing in on warm human flesh that danger begins to set in. As survival horror movies go both of these films strip away just about everything they can and boil everything down to the survival. Marooning the main character alone in a foreign country with little to no resources is a simple enough concept that works wonders for these types of movies.
Of the two films I enjoyed The Dead 2: India quite a bit more than it’s predecessor. The budget for the second film appeared a bit larger allowing for some excellent cinematography, an increase in the number of zombies, and a larger scale finally. The screenplay for India was also a tad more compelling. Millson’s performance is fantastic, much better than Freemans. However, to be fair, Millson is given a little more motivation to spur him on and emphasize his desire to save lives. One in particular involves a car crash in which he finds a woman and her young daughter trapped inside a vehicle as the dead are closing in. Add to it a great escape scene with a paraglider and a gauntlet run through the slums of Mumbai and part 2 of this franchise is the clear frontrunner in terms of enjoyability, excitement and terror.
That’s not to say you should avoid the first film. I recommend both movies to anyone who is a fan of Romero style zombie films, but part 2 is much better than the first… even if the IMDB ratings don’t reflect that opinion.
The Ford Brothers are certainly honing their skills and word is of a possible third outing for The Dead franchise on the horizon, so fingers crossed they continue to get better and better.
You can pick up both movies on Blu-Ray or see them through Amazon Instant Video.