Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dead Genesis (2010)

I wonder if George Romero watches very many of the dozens of zombie movies that are coming out these days. It's got to be hard to keep up with all of them- I can't do it- and you know he gets sent plenty of DVDs. At some point, you start to get zombie burnout. It's even less likely that he'll be reading this, but if so, hey George- this one's pretty decent!

Dead Genesis starts after the zombie apocalypse that these movies take for granted we know all about: the dead are rising with no explanation to eat the living and can only be killed by a shot to the brain. They probably could have given some explanation for all of this, but a montage of news reports is meant to suffice, and we pretty much know the drill. Besides, the movie actually begins with a brutal five minute sequence in which a character kills his zombie wife after she eats their son. It's definitely an attention-grabber. One of the old saws of screenplay writing is to capture your audience with an exciting first ten minutes and they seem to have followed that rule.

The actual story is about a documentary filmmaker (Emily Atalo) who's documenting a group of zombie hunters in the field. The group is a sort of renegade militia waging the "War on Dead" for the folks back home. It's a pretty interesting set up because it could be easily transposed to a story of a reporter embedded with a group of marines in Iraq, but the filmmakers don't exactly hit us over the head with the metaphor. Granted, there are plenty of satirical elements, such as an anti-war on the dead group and some pointed lines about the zombie hunters in the field protecting our freedom, but if you choose to view it as a straightforward zombie story, it certainly works that way too. Clearly, they're taking a cue here from Romero, whose best films work both as metaphors or as straightforward genre pics.

The reporter soon finds that the militia, pushed to the breaking point in the field, is able to dish out as much inhumanity as the zombies and her pro-war film turns troubled and ambiguous. S0me characters are revealed to be decent and just; others turn out to be scumbags, and most are in some gray area in the middle. In the end, the film comes closer than most recent horror movies to dealing directly with the current war, which is strange considering that it's been one of the longest in American history. Why aren't more horror filmmakers trying to comment on the war or terrorism, instead of trying to ape the 70s? And this one is very much a movie about America- really satirizing America- in spite of having been filmed by Canadians in Canada.

Problems? Well, it's a microbudget horror movie, which means we get plenty of scenes of characters in the woods behind someone's house in order to conserve resources. Some of the characters are pretty stock: it was guaranteed that the militia would have one tough-as-nails female, one guy who is playing cowboy, and a world-weary introspective guy with the soul of a poet. It's also guaranteed there will be at least one scene where a likable character will be bitten by a zombie and their comrades will have to kill them. And, yes, a few people will definitely get surprised while resting momentarily by zombie attacks. Finally, because it's microbudget, expect that some of the actors will be bad. It comes with the territory. One last beef: the shaky-cam in this movie is stomach-turning. I know that directors feel that using a handheld camera gives the "you are there" effect, but it really doesn't, unless you happen to be there and have Parkinson's. It's probably okay on a television set, but when projected on a big screen it was nauseating.

Serious note to aspiring low budget filmmakers: You can make a functional DIY steadicam for about thirty bucks. Do that. Please.

But, if you like zombie flicks, you'll probably enjoy Dead Genesis. It has some gruesome gore effects and is one of the precious few that effectively uses its supernatural storyline to really explore contemporary real world themes. That and its depth of characterization give the story real resonance after the final credits.


  1. Introspective guy with poet soul is ALWAYS the worst. The good news is, he almost always dies.

  2. I don't want to give anything away here, but in this one, he might also be the bitten comrade who has to be killed before he turns into a zombie.

    This one did add a bible-thumping fundamentalist stereotype to the proceedings, which I can't remember seeing in other militia movies, although after a point you wonder why this tough-as-nails zombie killing militia actually has room for a guy who does nothing but bible-thump.

  3. Thanks for the review! Sorry about the shaky cam stuff... totally my fault. Cheers!