Dead Within – A zombie film of a different color
Written by: Ben Wagner, Dean Chekvala, Amy Cale Peterson, and Matthew Bradford
Directed by: Ben Wagner
Starring: Amy Cale Peterson and Dean Chekvala
I saw “Dead Within” on my Netflix recommendations tonight. I almost skipped right by it, as it had a two out of five star rating. Then I saw that it was recommended to me because I liked Aaron Moorehead and Justin Benson’s “Resolution”. After debating for a few minutes, I said “Screw it” and hit play. I am glad I did.
The film starts out six months after an apocalyptic zombie virus has destroyed mankind. Mike (Chekvala) and Kim (Peterson) have isolated themselves in a mountain cabin, with the goal of waiting out the dangerous infection. They have food, water, and batteries, but those resources are getting harder and harder to come by. Mike frequently goes out hunting for said items, but refuses to ever let Kim leave explaining to her that he won’t let her be exposed to the risk of being killed by one of the infected.
The first half of the film slowly builds letting the viewer get a peek into the mind numbing tedium of constant isolation from the outside world. Then, things get much worse for Kim. Slowly but surely she begins to lose her grip on reality. The effects of being afraid for so long and being stuck, often times alone, in a one room cabin wreak havoc on Kim’s psyche. Mike decides to go look for a bigger more comfortable place for the two of them to live in, but it may be too little too late.
This movie has poor ratings on Netflix and IMDB, and on one hand I can understand why. American audiences are largely impatient with slow paced films, and demand a constant feed of any mixture of action/gore/sex/comedy in a movie. A lot of reviews on IMDB state that the reason for the poor rating is that you don’t see enough of the zombies and that the movie is a snooze fest compared to “28 Days Later” and “The Walking Dead”. I take issue with that though, and rather enjoyed this film. No, it is not a blood fest. No, it does not have a lot of action. What it does have though is a new spin on this tired genre. Instead of showing us the blood and guts, we are shown the results of the alternative approach to gathering weapons and slaughtering as many undead as possible. Here we have to people, hungry and scared, hunkering down in a place they feel is safe. The problem with that is that, like impatient movie audiences, people become psycho ass holes when they are cooped up in one place for too long.
The entire weight of the film is placed on the shoulders of Chekvala and Peterson, and both do a fine job. Especially Peterson who portrays a woman descending into madness with restraint and just the right amount of crazy. The dialogue is sparse, but the claustrophobic environment and the wonderful cinematography provide more than enough mood. Seriously, what the director and crew were able to accomplish visually with a shoe string budget is impressive to say the least.
As I said before, a lot of people (even people with good movie taste) will probably have a hard time with “Dead Within”. If you are like me though, and enjoy slow paced psychological horror films, then check this one out!