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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

DEAD SEASON -- DVD review by porfle



With NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, George Romero created a zombie mythology that just won't die.  Filmmakers are still adding their own chapters to the story and exploring various nooks and crannies of the scenario Romero set into motion over forty years ago.  The characters and settings may change, the timeframe may be updated, and the zombies may move a little faster sometimes, but we know that it all stems from that one night when a guy named Johnny taunted his jittery little sister in a gloomy cemetery with the words, "They're coming to get you, Barbara..."

DEAD SEASON (2012) is director Adam Deyoe's contribution to this sub-genre, and, like many of the others before it, it assumes we know the drill and need little or no exposition to get the ball rolling.  Thus, we join a former paramedic named Elvis (Scott Peat) already dodging "walkers" (the script, we learn from the commentary, was written before HBO's "The Walking Dead" popularized the term) in his search for food and shelter, and trying to hook up with a woman who calls herself Tweeter (Marissa Merrill) whom he's met over the airwaves. 

After a wild and woolly escape from over a hundred extras in some pretty passable zombie makeup, Elvis and Tweeter sail to an island off the coast of Florida (actually Puerto Rico) that they think is "walker-free."  It isn't.  The living inhabitants are a paramilitary bunch led by hard-ass Kurt Conrad (James C. Burns) whose philosophy is that if they don't "strip themselves down to the wires" they aren't going to make it.  This means being ruthless and totally unsentimental, and it also means that Elvis and Tweeter must make themselves useful to the group if they expect to eat or, in fact, live.

As in the better zombie movies, the constant menace of the living dead serves as a backdrop for intense interplay between the human characters, with Conrad's increasingly domineering behavior alarming the two reluctant newbies even as they try to fit in.  Elvis' medical skills are put to good use, especially in the treatment of Conrad's listless daughter Rachel (Corsica Wilson), the last link to his more human side.  Meanwhile, Tweeter joins the search and destroy team and gets to kill zombies which have overrun the island ever since a Dutch cruise ship sank nearby (which I thought was a pretty cool touch). 

DEAD SEASON brings lots of good ideas to the table and keeps things interesting most of the time, making up for occasional lulls by offering some surprising and sometimes shocking twists along the way.  While directing and editing aren't always slick, the low-budget film boasts several furious action sequences that are often grippingly suspenseful, in addition to some extremely dramatic exchanges such as the one in which Conrad springs his darkest and most dreadful secret on a stunned Elvis. 

Performances by the leads are exceptionally good, with James C. Burns playing good-guy/bad-guy Conrad to a tee and making us sympathize with his intentions even when his methods seem repellent.  Peat and Merrill are a great team as Elvis and Tweeter--even their brief lovemaking scene manages to convey a sense of erotic desperation rather than being merely obligatory. 

The unglamorous yet tomboy-attractive Merrill in particular shines as a female character who can handle herself impressively in action situations without simply being the stereotypical "strong woman."  Peat, on the other hand, is adept at letting his emotional side show through even when he's smashing zombie skulls with a sledge hammer.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround sound.  No subtitles, though closed-captioning is available.  Extras include a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, outtakes, and a trailer.  The cast and crew commentary track is fun while being casual almost to a fault--in fact, it sounds as though someone's absent-mindedly kicking the microphone during the whole thing. 

As you might expect, the human characters' fragile veneer of civilization begins to fall apart at the seams during the final act as their compound is overrun by zombies and all hell breaks loose.  Nods to Romero abound--some of the grisly gore setups are an obvious reprise of familiar horrors from DAWN OF THE DEAD--but the action-packed, richly character-driven DEAD SEASON stands on its own as a modest but worthwhile entry in the zombie mythos. 



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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

great review...ordering it to add to my zombie collection! You and some of my other go to reviews have never guided me down the wrong path.

porfle said...

Thanks, glad you liked it! Hope I don't ever steer you wrong. At least, not too often.