August 12, 2004

DVD Review: Undead

I read about this movie first over a year ago when it was reviewed at Ain't it Cool News. At the time the film makers were having the initial meetings in hopes of picking up a US distributor. Unfortunately, a year later, it doesn't look like that is going to happen. The review was very enthusiastic, and the movie went on my must see list. Since it did not not get a US distribution, I eventually forgot about it. Then a few weeks back it somehow came to mind, I think it may have been mentioned in another review or something, I really don't remember. I decided to look it up, and found it at an Australian based DVD retail site, Atlantic DVD. Seemed like a good deal for it, and I decided to order it. Two weeks later, it arrived in my mailbox directly from the land down under. I eagerly ripped off the plastic and dropped it into my gloriously region free DVD player. What I was presented with was a wonderful concoction of horror, suspense, action, and comedy inspired by the likes of George Romero(Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead), Sam Raimi(Evil Dead I+II, Spider-Man 1+2), and Peter Jackson(Dead Alive, Frighteners, Lord of the Rings Trilogy).

The movie starts with Renee, a beauty pageant winner, she has just discovered that the bank is taking over ownership of her parents farm and decides to leave town. As she is leaving, there is a meteor shower over the town and we are treated to people being struck by the falling rocks, and then getting back up again. Not even ten minutes into the movie and already we have zombies. She takes refuge in an old farmhouse, the home of the town crazy, Marion. Shortly after that, a couple of cops and another civilian show up being pursued by a hoard of zombies. We now have our band of heroes ready to survive the night.

From here they must escape the predicament there in and get out of town. Along the way, there are zombies, lots of them, that get in the way of their escape. This gives us plenty of opportunity for splashes of gore, and plenty of it. During their trek, it is discovered that there is something bigger going on. By the time we get to the end it is something completely different than when it started, I won't give it away, but it was quite strange and unexpected.

I've got to say, I loved this movie. It is the kind of cult film that feeds off of the others that have come before. Mainly the Evil Dead series and Dead Alive, with some elements of the Living Dead trilogy. It takes elements of those films and builds on them, bringing us a new original film that deserves a bigger audience than it is getting. First off we have a new anti-hero in Marion(played by Mungo Mckay, yes that's his real name!), armed with a triple shotgun, and plenty of other guns laying around. Second, excellent gore effects and unique ways to kill the walking dead. Thirdly, a whole new mythology to build upon, I would love to see sequels, the possibilities that the story gives us.

Video. The picture quality is pretty solid, not outstanding though. At times the transfer seems a bit soft and undefined, mainly during some of the darker scenes. The transfer also seems a bit dark. I chalk this up the fact that it is a region 4 PAL formatted disk being played on an inexpensive box that was hacked to be region free, and is doing PAL to NTSC conversion, so I will give it the benefit of the doubt. I have seen much, much worse from region 1 disks.

Audio. Sound is solid as well. My only problem was that sometimes when there were multiple characters yelling at the same time, I had a hard time separating what they were saying, but that was more to do with the accents than any fault in the audio mix.

Extras. This disk has a nice selection of extras.
-Two commentary tracks, one with the crew and one with the cast, I haven't sampled these yet.
-A nice 30+ minute making of documentary, this gives us a nice look into this low budget feature. -Footage from a screening at the Toronto Film Festival.
-A featurette with zombie test film. This was pretty cool watching the zombie movements at different frame rates.
-A bunch of deleted and extended scenes.
-An animatic of the last 12 minutes of the film.
-All of the trailers, the internet teaser, theatrical teaser, and theatrical full.
-Finally there are production and still galleries and artwork.

Bottomline. Excellent movie, great extras. This is a fun zombie movie which is right up there with the greats. It plays the fine line between homage to those of the past, and forging its own original path to cultdom. It plays that line like a fine instrument, successful at all turns. If you have a region free player, or have thought about getting one, it is worth it. For all zombie fans.


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