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The Dead

If you thought TV's 'The Walking Dead' was slow ...

Rod Lott February 7th, 2012

Recently, I bought an issue of a UK film magazine whose cover story counted down the 66 best zombie movies ever made. Perched at No. 31 was Howard and Jonathan Ford's "The Dead" — a damned strong showing for two Brit brothers whose previous pair of pictures didn’t even make a blip.

Your expectations for greatness, however, should be tempered. Despite a few surface tweaks, "The Dead" is just zom-business as usual. Shot and set in the West African desert, the film's hero is U.S. Air Force Lt. Murphy (Rob Freeman, “Saving Private Ryan”), the lone survivor of a plane crash now stranded in a wasteland that's hardly inhabited ... by anyone alive, at least.

Crossing his gloomy path — and saving his life — is African military Sgt. Dembele (Prince David Oseia), whose village has been decimated by flesh-munching, glassy-eyed zombies. Make that zombi. Given the race and place of the people, "The Dead" recalls the subgenre's roots in films like 1932's "White Zombie," where the shambling bodies had more to do with voodoo and slave culture than today's Romero-informed creatures.

Sadly, as Murphy and Dembele traverse the barren landscape in search of safety — almost in a "Defiant Ones" style, given their clash of cultures — "The Dead" grows to be nearly as dry and dull as their dirt-caked surroundings. With a moving scene involving an infant girl aside, the movie is too bleak, too boring for its own good.

With our two lead characters underdeveloped — not helped by a purposeful dearth of dialogue — there's so little for a viewer to latch onto, other than the occasional well-executed machete to the head. —Rod Lott

Read our interview with directors Howard and Jonathan Ford.

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