Review: Deadheads and War of the Dead at TADFFComplications Ensue
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

I went to Toronto for, among other things, the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, run by the ebullient Adam Lopez. They were kind enough to screen You Are So Undead Saturday night. It was Zombie Appreciation Night -- two bucks off if you're a zombie! -- so a sizable chunk of the audience were duded up in the their dead best. And their best was very good indeed. A fair number of them wouldn't have looked out of a place in a zombie movie.

So our sexy little vamps were sandwiched between two zombie movies.

DEADHEADS is a goofy, fun zombie romantic comedy. Mike Kellerman returns to consciousness in a freezer three years after dying. There's a zombie outbreak going on, so it takes him a little time to realize that he, too, is dead. Just, he's a walking and talking zombie.

And he wants to get back to the girl he loves. He's just unsure how it will go, him being dead and all. Fortunately, he quickly attracts a wingman, also talking-dead Brent Guthrie, who won't let him let himself down. Soon they're driving across the country, with badass government agents in hot pursuit.

What makes this movie work is the characters. Sure, there's action and slapstick and snappy banter. But this movie has heart. Mike and Brent are a great odd couple. The government agents are all fun, from the convict who's trying to win his freedom, to the obnoxious macho killer with the most ridiculous sideburns anyone's seen since 1895, to the huge moaning zombie, "Cheese," that the guys have decided to bring along as a pet.

WAR OF THE DEAD is an exuberant mess. It's a World War Ii zombie war movie. There's a bunker where the Nazis did secret experiments on Russian soldiers, and now there are Nazi zombies running around. There's enough zombie shooting for any Call of Duty: Black Ops fan. It's impressive how much production value you can get for a million euros in Lithuania. Nice camera work, nice set design.

What there isn't is much of a story. There's a plot all right. It's 1941. Inexplicably, an American platoon (I thought we weren't at war till December 7?) is fighting alongside Finns (I thought they were German allies?) against Russians (I thought they were our allies?) to find and destroy a secret Nazi bunker in Karelia (Russian territory till September 1941). There's some sort of German scientist who's made these odd little mechanisms with gears, that ultimately turn out to be nothing more than odd little keys. There's a girl who may or may not have been involved with the experiments. There's a young Russian soldier, an American captain and a Finnish lieutenant who's not telling everything he knows, and never does.

And there are lots and lots of Nazis, especially undead ones.

It would have been nice to have a theme. Or a main character to root for. Maybe then I would have cared how it came out.

I'm not sure about the point of doing a zombie war movie. Zombies are among the least impressive of the undead. (Like, 2d6, tops.) They're scary if you're armed with a cricket bat. If you've got a tommygun and enough ammo, they're not nearly as dangerous as actual German soldiers, who were pretty deadly.

Nice music, though. And nice production values. And the audience seemed to enjoy it.

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Mr. Epstein,

You are truly a genius and have been very helpful to me as an aspiring writer! I've worked as a ghostwriter, freelance writer for IFQ and have a small indie animated film in production. But I'm still having trouble locking down a good literary agent. I've heard contrasting opinions on this, but what is the consensus? If you are still an unknown writer, should you provide a synopsis along with your query letter - or is this too much for the agent to read?


Chelsea Zotta

By Blogger Chelsea zotta, at 12:46 PM  

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