Deadscapes: Broken Road DVD Review
Written by Milos Jovanovic
Written and directed by Kristofer Velasquez
2006, Region 1 (NTSC), 23 minutes, Not rated
Ken Barnhart as Eric
Leon DeWyze as Greg
Kathy Swiercz as Jesse
Hell has propped up a "no vacancy" sign yet again, and the dead decided to take a walk on the earth side. In the ensuing few weeks, the zombies have turned the tables on humanity, and are now greatly outnumbering the living. But not everyone has succumbed to the undead plague — Eric, a self-styled survivalist, is one of the (un)lucky few. Armed with his Glock and a mobile home, he spends his days scavenging for food and eliminating zombies who stand in his way.
One night, Eric encounters Greg and Jesse, a couple on the run. Their car has broken down, and they ask for a ride to the nearest town, where their parents will pick them up. Eric is not keen on their company, but still opts to let them in. The three strike an uneasy relationship — neither Jesse, nor Greg, are enamored with Eric's militaristic, commandeering ways, who in turn seems to have a dislike for the upper-class "preppies". They eventually reconcile and retire to sleep.
In the middle of the night, Eric wakes Greg up and asks him to fill up the tank. Greg, however, is a clumsy kind of guy and he manages to spill the gas before replenishing the trailer's gas supply. Certain that Eric will carve him up if he returns now, he decides to have a run for it. It turns out to be an unwise decision — not just for Greg, but for all the others involved, as well...
Of all the indies I've seen and reviewed so far (which is, admittedly, not many), Deadscapes: Broken Road has to be one of the more interesting ones. In this new era of blood and guts, director Kristopher Velasquez, a huge self-confessed Romero fan, went back to basics and delivered something of a rarity nowadays — a character-driven zombie film, with focus firmly planted on the plight of the living rather than carnage of the dead.
Faced with budgetary constraints all young indie filmmakers tend to face, Velasquez wisely resorts to a familiar, minimalistic setup — one closed, seemingly safe location and its surroundings are everything we see here, and it's more than enough. Claustrophobia is the strongest ally of zombie films, a notion which didn't pass unnoticed by the director, who obviously did his homework when it comes to this genre. The technical shortcomings are circumvented by filming in black and white during the night. This results in grainy outside shots, but it fits with the atmosphere neatly, and adds to its grit factor. Not to mention that all the gore effects look much better this way. The script is better than average as these ventures go, and the characters seem reasonably fleshed out for a 25-minute film.
Even the acting seems to be above par when compared to the other similar efforts. Leon Dewyze leaves the best impression, and his character seems to be the deepest of the bunch as well. Ken Barnhart expectedly overacts as Eric, a character who looks like Ed Norton, talks like John Wayne and acts like Joe Pilato (of Day of the Dead fame), but this doesn't work against the picture. Kathy Swiercz is perhaps the weakest link here — contrary to Barnhart, she underacts on most of her lines. Still, it's unfair to dog indie films on account of amateur acting, so that can all be left aside. Finally, due props go to Velasquez, who not only wrote and directed Deadscapes : Broken Road, but also wrote the score and took care of all the zombie makeup and similar effects. Speaking of which, there are a couple of zombies in this film, and all of their appearances are effectively handled.
Deadscapes: Broken Road is a spirited indie effort, pulling zombie film to its roots, exploring inter-human conflicts which arise in a midst of an undead invasion. It is not, by any means, a perfect film, but it's a good start for its director, who can build on from here. Considering the fact that there are plans afoot to expand the "Deadscapes" concept into a mini-franchise of short films, I am certain I'll be reviewing more of those as the time passes.
Video and Audio:
Deadscapes: Broken Road is presented in 1.85:1 letterboxed widescreen (the cover speaks of "fake anamorphic", which, I guess, will be the same). Shot in black & white, the image is clear enough during the interior parts, but grain is visible once the action moves outside of the trailer. With DV as the original source, you can't expect much more than what you're getting here.
The only audio option is a 2.0 Dolby Digital, which sounds good and clear. There are no subtitles included on the disc.
The disc is furnished with three extra features — one trailer, behind the scenes featurette, and some outtakes.
The trailer (0:32, 1.85:1) is a decent effort, with good background music.
The behind the scenes featurette (21 minutes approx, 1.33:1) is more of a video diary of the shoot, showing us the effort cast & crew went through while making the film.
Also, we learn that the original script was slightly different than the finished product, due to one actor leaving the shoot and his place left unfulfilled. Velasquez augments this bit of info with a script-to-screen comparison in which the changes are explained.
The outtakes (6:30, 1.85:1), are, well, exactly what you expect of them — actors blowing their lines and the rest laughing at them.