Dead Season has the deck stacked against it from the get go. It's a zombie film releasing among an unparalleled glut of genre fare. It's a low budget affair that starts off very weakly- like a badly decayed rotter, tottering along at molasses speed. Luckily, the production values, pacing, and plot kick up considerably around the ten to fifteen minute mark. This roughly coincides with our heroes' trip to what is suppose to be an island refuge from the horrors of the post apocalyptic mainland. Dead Season also benefits from the talents of James C. Burns as Kurt Conrad, the military trained director of the island's safe haven facility. His veteran acting chops and screen presence give the film the credence that you don't usually find in these sort of independent flicks (video game fans will recognize his voice, as he played Frank Woods in Call of Duty: Black Ops).
The plot follows the flight of Elvis (Scott Peat) and Tweeter (Marrssa Merrill), who meet up in Florida and then make their way to a marina. America's already gone to pot and so they're off to a small Caribbean island in the hopes of finding a walker free life. Once they arrive, they're captured and integrated into a small group of survivors, who have set up a seemingly decent life. Of course, all is not what it appears or we wouldn't have much of a film. The conflict, as with any good zombie film, lies with human nature. As the truth unravels, and the survival drive takes center stage, some interesting ideas are explored. The nature of survival, and the extent to which we're willing to go to ensure it for our loved ones, are the moral quandaries explored here. To be more specific would be spoilerific, but I will tell you this: people and zombies die. Gruesomely.
The action on display in Dead Season is well choreographed and makes great use of practical gore effects (thank Cthulhu!). In an age where independent horror films are loaded with awful, slipshod CGI, it's refreshing to see someone go classic karo (syrup) on us. Does every effect work to Savini levels of splatter? No, there are some weak moments throughout, but none of them are as bad as even one moment of poor CGI gore. And let's be honest here, not even Savini got it perfect every time.
Special features run the normal gamut: a 'making of' Featurette, deleted scenes, outtakes, the trailer and a commenters track with director Adam Deyoe, producer/writer Loren Semmens, actor Scott Peat and director of photography Jeffery Peters. The film has an eighty-five minute run time, which feel a little long, as the first ten minutes really drag. If you can push past them, though, you're in for good time.
Dead Season is an honestly genuine attempt at a zombie film bringing something more to the screen. Too often, modern independent undead films fall into the well developed rut of more blood, no brains. Here's an earnest effort that blazes some new ground, delivering a satisfying, though slightly amateur adventure. If you've been around the zombie block and are looking for a change of pace, Dead Season should tickle your fright fancy until The Walking Dead resumes. Head over to Image Entertainment's web site to check it out. It's available on DVD and digital download on July 31st.
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