Dead Men Walking DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by The Asylum
I do not enjoy shooting staff members, Goddammit! – Lt. Sweeny
Directed by Peter Mervis
Written by Mike Watt
2005, Region 1 (NTSC), 85 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on October 25th, 2005
Bay Bruner as Samantha Beckett
Griff Furst as Johnny
Chriss Anglin as Lt. Sweeny
Brandon Stacy as Travis
Robert James as Warden Mahler
Dead Men Walking has a great opening. Travis (Brandon Stacey), armed with only a shotgun, is running through a house blasting the apparent living dead back to hell. Just when you think he's safe, one last zombie attacks, Travis shoots it (managing to get a mouthful of the zombie's blood in the process) and the cops bust through the door just in time to arrest him. Because, really, there's no such thing as zombies, is there.
As "the shotgun killer" is being hauled off by the cops, CDC employee Samantha Beckett (Bay Bruner) rolls up — obviously late for the party. After a brief phone call, she is assigned to go to the prison where Travis is being held. The CDC has some questions for the killer.
When he arrives at the prison, Travis appears violently ill. After throwing up blood in the infirmary, Travis is taken to solitary. Not one to be selfish, on his way to his cell, Travis throws up on three convicts.
By the time Beckett manages to see Travis, he is on a gurney. Dead. Oddly, even though he "died" minutes before, his body says he has been dead for over four hours.
The three convicts Travis spread the love on got sick themselves. Unfortunately for the rest of the prison population, they got sick in the mess hall. They managed to throw up the red stuff on an awful lot of people.
Oh, and the beauty of it all? Thrown up on equals infection. Infection equals death. Death equals Dead Men Walking.
When the opening credits rolled, and Travis was fighting zombies, a little part of me groaned. The editing was pure MTV. Quick cuts, a quicker camera and super speed is everything I hate in a movie. I did not want to watch a movie by the newest music video director wannabe.
Fortunately, the MTV cuts were kept to a minimum, and used only for some zombie attacks. And, to give credit where credit is due, there is one very well edited scene in which Lt. Sweeny (Chriss Anglin – King of the Lost World), the physically and mentally abusive prison guard, and a fellow officer are shooting zombies. The music being played to accompany this dance is classical. I watched that particular scene twice.
Speaking of Anglin, watch him. Every time he opens his mouth, it's comedy gold. Certainly, some credit goes to the writer, Mike Watt, for his dark comedy, but Anglin's delivery is sometimes so arrogant it's laugh-out-loud funny. Sure, Anglin's character is cut fresh off the tray of cookies, but that doesn't mean his character is not an enjoyable one.
Bay Bruner, as Samantha Beckett, also does admirably, considering this is her first movie, according to IMDB — and a leading role, no less. At times, she is a bit stiff, but there are also times when she is surprisingly good. Surprising because, again, this is her apparent first film role. With a more experienced director guiding her, Bruner will shine.
But don't let the "more experienced director" line dissuade you. Walking is Peter Mervis' third film as a director, and it is obvious he will have a style as he gains more experience, not just be stuck with the point-and-shoot technique so often seen from young directors. Plus, there seemed to be a hell of a nod to Night of the Living Dead in the film. That alone gives him some bonus points. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but I'm going to go with yes.
But while the script, acting and direction get it done, it's the gore that stands out. I lost count of how many times a zombie had a gun for lunch. Or an arm. Or a neck. Or guts. Oh so many guts. The special effects team did a standout job of piling on the carnage and grue, without any obvious use of CGI. This is old-school butchery.
And, hey, even if the zombies are fast-moving ones, it's still a damn enjoyable movie.
Video and Audio:
This is The Asylum's first digital movie, and I'm on the fence. I'm not a fan of digital because film, 99 times out of 100, looks better. A movie shot on film looks like a mainstream movie, as opposed to, well, a low-budget movie. And considering how good King of the Lost World looked, Walking seems to be almost a step back. Almost. Because, in its defense, Walking's anamorphic presentation looks good. Its intentional greenish hue really adds to the sickness the movie is portraying and there are some things done with the digital camera that could not have been done with film. I can understand why they chose to shoot digital for this movie, and I expect The Asylum to do it again in the future, but I’m hoping they stick with film for the majority of their movies.
The picture is clear, with a few instances of noise, but overall, it’s a good-looking presentation.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is a little disappointing. The voices are always crisp and clear, but it does not have enough bass. The gunshots lack that deep "boom" and sound a bit high. And when you are firing as many rounds as these guys are, it's better if it sounds like a real gun and not a popgun.
The cast and crew commentary is more technical than previous commentaries from The Asylum. One of the producers, Sherri Strain, does a great job when the conversation needs a moderator, keeping the other participants on topic and asking the right questions when things lag. But damn it, once again the remote has to be kept handy because there are not enough mics in the room, especially on the occasions Strain has something to say.
A 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette offers very little. It basically just shows what the film is about. However, there are a few comedic moments and the brief clips on the special effects make it worth at least one viewing.
When the opening credits roll with a man blowing away zombies in a house somewhere in suburbia, you know it's going to be a good time.
(Equipment includes a Mitsubishi WS-48613 48” HDTV, Sony DVP-CX875P DVD player and Onkyo HTS-770 Home Theater System and, in some cases, a Sony 27” WEGA TV and a Sony DVP-NS50P DVD player.)