Friday, March 7, 2008


Not be confused with the previously-reviewed short DEAD MEAT (which also hails from Ireland, and was made in 2004), this feature-length zombie film of the same name comes to us from writer/director Conor McMahon. And though it isn't exactly groundbreaking, DEAD MEAT should prove a rancid treat to zombie fanatics.

The film is a series of escalating events happening to a young woman named Helena (Marian Araujo, an admirably understated heroine) as a zombie outbreak--the result of a mutated strain of Mad Cow Disease--strikes the Irish countryside. While it isn't really a horror-comedy, McMahon injects a healthy dose of black humor into the proceedings as the story slowly unfolds (my favorite bit was an unexpected vacuum-to-the-eyeball as Helena fends off her freshly-zombified boyfriend). What really stands out is the foreboding sense of doom that lingers over each scene, aided immeasurably by the stark exterior setting (the movie takes place almost entirely outdoors, an atmospheric touch that had to've been difficult, given the production's obvious limited resources) and its use of such structures as the crumbling ruins of an abbey or an ancient castle as sets. The film's digital video photography is also exceptional, fluid yet not shaky, bearing an influence of early Peter Jackson without slavishly copying his style.

Very little happens in DEAD MEAT that you haven't seen before (it takes the checklist of Things That Need to Happen in a Zombie Film and hits just about all of them), yet unlike most instances where this bleeds the life from the story, the feeling of familiarity actually heightens the fun. Some of McMahon's details are a little far-fetched, especially in the fight scenes (shovels are used as spears, Helena dispatches zombies with the heel of her shoe, throwing it with amazing accuracy), and the story does start to run out of steam as it nears the end, slowing down to the point that its rustic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD-inspired finale loses some of its impact, but by then I was to enamored with the film to really mind. I would, though, have liked to see more done with the downbeat ending, which raised more questions than it answered.

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