Before I commence with the slaughter, I'd like to address a disturbing trend I've been seeing lately. I'm noticing a lot of micro-budget, I-shot-this-in-my-backyard movies with mind-bogglingly excessive running times. Today's entry, clocking in at just under two hours, is just one of many offenders I've come across; this isn't a bad thing on its own, but given the threadbare nature of the DIY flick, it's a rare case that a film of such length has a story of sufficient depth and complexity to justify it. Writer/producer/director/cinematographer/editor/actor Darrin Brent Patterson's 2003 release THE DEAD LIVE is a prime example of this flaw, bloating a shallow, one-dimensional tale beyond belief with a relentlessly clueless filmmaking "technique."
After a credit sequence over a static-choked screen, a background that renders Patterson's title card all but unreadable, the movie itself starts to roll, and it immediately becomes clear that the staggeringly long takes, extraneous action, and five-second pauses between dialogue is going to be the least of this movie's problems. (With a title as unimaginative and bland as THE DEAD LIVE, is that a surprise?) The story--in which a reporter and her cameraman follow a growing zombie epidemic--begins with faux news footage so clunky and lacking immediacy that any verisimilitude goes out the window; but that's not the (main) problem. The problem is when the actors opens their mouths.
The performances in this movie can generously, charitably, be called wooden. However, wooden suggests the acting found in Ed Wood pictures, or elementary school plays, or the banter that pads out third-rate porno films, and the acting in THE DEAD LIVE never reaches those heights. All of the actors are stilted and unconvincing (to be expected, I suppose, with stars named Mike "Joe Joe Little" Jones in the cast), but Patterson himself deserves most of the blame; playing eight-five percent of the characters, he bungles each individual role by portraying them not as regular human beings, but in broad, unrealistic stereotypes that border of the offensive. (Though the film was shot, and presumably takes place in, Ohio, the cast has a slightly less southern-backwater feel than DELIVERANCE.) People simply don't act in reality the way anyone does in this mess.
Friends, mere words can't describe how wretched and soul-crushingly bad this movie is. (Please, please, don't take that as a suggestion to watch it.) The first twenty minutes alone displays enough incompetence to make Uwe Boll shake his head in disgust; I kept thinking THE DEAD LIVE resembled those pseudo-skits they used to show on AMERICA'S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS, only stretched to feature length and filled with astonishingly bad zombies and gore effects. My favorite pieces of ineptitude comes early, as the ever-so-intrepid reporter uses her sharp journalistic skills to determine that dead bodies are sent to the morgue once they're picked up. Wow, the things you can learn watching no-budget horror films!
About halfway through suffering this nightmare I wondered what would happen if Patterson ever hooked up with WISEGUYS VS. ZOMBIES director Adam Maranovich--a concept ten times more frightening than anything conceived here. I tried to imagine it, but my brain--in an act of self-preservation, I'm sure--kept shutting down.
The requisite shout-outs to Savini and Romero are here, as well as the obligatory thanks to Fulci in the end credits (Patterson even goes outside the box a bit to close with a cheap CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST reference). After threatening us with a lame "To be continued . . . ???" tag (let's hope the fuck not), Patterson finally ends with a half-assed "tribute" to the victims of September 11; not only does this crass ploy to liken terrorists with the living dead (and aside from the use of "Let's roll," there's nothing here remotely connected to that day) trivialize that tragedy, it also begs the question: if terrorists really are like zombies, why not make a movie about that (which would actually be an original and thought-provoking take on the subject) instead of remaking NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD for the seven-millionth time?