Deadlands: The Rising Movie Review
Written by Eric “Eric Strauss” Strauss
A Wetnwildradio Films DVD Screener
Written and directed by Gary Ugarek
2006, 62 minutes, Not rated
Michelle Wright as Michelle
Connor Brandt as Connor
Dave Cooperman as Dave
Brian Wright as Brian
Gary Ugarek as Gary
Gary Ugarek’s Deadlands: The Rising clearly strives to be the little zombie movie that could. And despite a very, very slow start to its hourlong run time, Deadlands finds a measure of success… and hangs onto it for dear life.
It’s clear Deadlands has no budget and no professional actors. Production limitations mean the volume-control button is a constant presence. There’s no sign of a single zombie until a full 20 minutes in — meaning the first third of the film is memorable only for Ugarek’s gorgeous cherry-red Mustang and some seriously bad hairdos.
Despite all that, Deadlands has to be called a success, because once the walking dead appear and the blood starts flowing, it really takes a big step forward.
It helps that the zombie makeup and blood-n-guts effects are excellent, a credit to craftsmen Stephanie Petagno, Studio Coleoptera and Spaghetti Industries.
Still, there’s more to the movie than gore. In fact, Ugarek, directing his first feature (typical of the indie world, he’s also the writer, editor and one of the stars), really puts some stylish shots on the screen.
Limitations of equipment and budget aside, there are some images that really look like they’ve come from a studio film.
In addition, Ugarek’s zombies not only look good, they are convincingly menacing — they shamble around, then break into a run… then flat-out attack.
The cast seems to be made up of regular Joes and Janes playing themselves, generally acceptably, with the moaning, drooling zombies leaning toward the “good” end of the acting scale and a group of thoroughly unconvincing National Guard characters at the “bad” end.
The story itself is a basic one, following a group of family and friends from Maryland. They’re part of the crowd trying to get out of town with hides intact after a terrorist attack in Baltimore brings about a zombie plague.
And Ugarek uses that “what would I do?” scenario in combination with his “everyday” cast to build a good amount of empathy.
The highlight of the film is actually not the main characters, but a group of motorists stuck in a traffic backup on a Maryland road. The stress and tension, the worries and questions, all seem very real. Then, when the inevitable attack comes, it’s quick and brutal and showcases those great effects. And the shot through the fog of the desolate road afterward is absolutely perfect.
That said, Deadlands has flaws beyond the limits of its budget. The main one is unquestionably pacing. The bulk of the action takes place over about half an hour in the second part of the film, and that means Deadlands risks losing its audience before the first bite. The movie starts and nothing happens… nothing happens… nothing happens… then all hell breaks loose and, finally, just when the excitement and violence are at their height, the film fades to a relatively quiet denouement.
Video and Audio:
Video and audio will not be graded, as this was a screener.
I will say that I hope Ugarek can equalize the volume better for his eventual DVD release, because the sound levels on the screener disc are terrible — clearly an issue with the source material. The dialogue had me constantly cranking my speakers way up… only to have gunshots come out at a level that could raise the dead (pun intended).
Features will not be graded, as this was a screener.
|Movie:||– It’s thisclose to being forgettable Z-movie fodder, but winds up being an endearing, quality indie… just.|
|Overall:||– Deadlands hits DVD toward the end of October, according to its Web site. It’s worth a look, because while it requires some patience, good scenes do come to those who wait.|
It’s tough to say what will become of Deadlands. It’s really too short to be a feature, and too long to be a short film. And I guarantee its slow start means some viewers will hit the stop button long before the undead arrive. Frankly, that will be a mistake on their part.
(Weapons of Choice: Mitsubishi 1080 series 42” TV, Sony DVP-CX995V DVD player, Bose Lifestyle 25 Series II speakers and, in certain situations, Panasonic 27” TV, Panasonic A110 DVD player and Bose TriPort headphones.)