Thursday, February 8, 2007
Deadlands: The Rising (2006)
Deadlands: The Rising has been on my must-watch list for a while now, so I was excited when I finally received a screener copy. Gary Ugarek's low-budget little-zombie-film-that-could has its share of problems, but its an impressive showing for the first time director/writer/actor/editor. It feels very realistic throughout and puts us right in the middle of the "what if" scenario of a zombie attack.
It's a regular day on the outskirts of Baltimore. Brian (Brian Wright), his wife Michelle (Michelle Wright) and their son Connor (Connor Brandt) are hanging out at home when Brian's friend Gary (Gary Ugarek) shows up. The phone and cable are both out and no one seems to know what's going on. Nonetheless, Gary and Brian head out for a day of drinking and shooting guns in the country leaving Michelle home with Connor. Soon thereafter, a large explosion is heard in the city. Some kind of terrorist attack or chemical disaster has occurred and the freeways soon become packed with bumper to bumper traffic. The people stuck on these freeways soon become dinner for a large pack of hungry zombies that have turned due to the disaster. As emergency centers are set up throughout the city, zombies reach Michelle and Connor. Brian and Gary, meanwhile, are trying to find their way back to the house, but many of the roads are blocked or overrun by zombies. Michelle and Connor make it out of the house and head to the country to a friend's isolated house. Meanwhile, Dave, a survivor of the freeway massacre, reaches one of the emergency centers and tries to warn them of the zombie threat. Unfortunately, zombies soon overrun the place. Meanwhile, Brian and Gary finally find Michelle at their friend's house, and the five of them shack up there. Six months later, the five of them are still hiding out, frequently heading into the city to scavenge for supplies. They haven't heard any communication for three months and Gary believes them to be the only survivors. How long can they stay safe before the zombies find them?
While the movie takes a while to build over its 60 minute running time, when it gets going it is well worth the wait! For a Ugarek's first time out as a filmmaker, he does an impressive job with stylish and professional looking shots (with some help from cinematographer Thomas Fant). My favorite scene is when the zombies attack the motorists on the clogged freeway. The zombies appearing out of the fog and headlights certainly makes for an eerie shot.
Speaking of the zombies, their makeup and special effects are amazing. All the special effects were done by Studio Coleoptera and Spaghetti Industries and both companies do a fantastic job. People get torn apart in this film, and the blood and guts were all superior to most low-budget films I've seen.
Most of the first-time actors do a pretty decent job with their parts, especially the five leads. Some of the supporting cast (those that become zombie snacks) visibly overact their parts, but for a low-budget picture the acting is well-done. All the extras who play zombies also do a fantastic job, some shambling slowly as the effects of rigor mortis set in, while others sprint towards their human prey after rigor mortis has worn off.
My favorite thing about this film, though, is how real it feels. The slow-building tension, first with communication and news being cut off, then disaster striking, then thousands of people trying to flee the city, then panic, confusion and anger setting in, made it feel very real. It feels like how an actual outbreak would be like and how different people would respond to it.
All in all, while Deadlands: The Rising stumbles a bit, the film is much like a zombie itself. It might look slow when it's first coming after you, but, by golly, it'll catch up and grab you in the end. The film starts slow, but when it gets going it's unrelenting! I hear there even might be a Deadlands 2, which I would very much look forward too...
If you love zombie flicks, I highly suggest you pick up Deadlands: The Rising.
Order it on Amazon!