THE DEAD 2 Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Written and directed by the Ford brothers
2013, Region A, 99 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on September 16th, 2014
Joseph Millson as Nicholas Burton
Meenu Mishra as Ishani
Anand Gopal as Javed
Sandip Datta Gupta as Ishanti's father
Poonan Mathur as Ishanti's mother
Nick is a mechanical engineer working high atop a windmill on a wind farm in India, when he gets his first glimpse of the coming zombie apocalypse. He must travel 300 miles to the slums of Mumbai in order to rescue Ishani, his pregnant girlfriend, and get to the safety of a transport plane leaving the continent. Along the way, he meets and hires Javed, a young local boy, to serve as a guide through the countryside. Meanwhile, Ishani's family is enduring the growing violence outside their home as her mother is treated for a strange bite on the arm. Her father does not approve of his daughter's boyfriend (or most Americans), fearing the foreigners are merely using his people, but he has no idea the lengths to which Nick is willing to go in order to reunite with Ishani. The frequently brutal encounters are testing Nick's fortitude as he struggles to retain his moral character in an increasingly terrible scenario.
In 2010, the Ford brothers (Howard and Jon) unleashed The Dead, a zombie movie set in Africa that followed a lone American through a series of apocalyptic adventures that would eventually lead him to a new destiny. Now, the siblings return to the genre for a second bite with the uninspired title: The Dead 2 (2013), and while the basic template is repeated, the rules of sequels insist that everything must be bigger and better, so how do they fare? The story ups the ante on all levels with an all new cast of characters, this time in India, running around multiple locations and fighting an even larger number of undead attackers. There is a nice action sequence involving a paraglide escape that leads to some impressive flight footage and later on, a stunning moment of violence that will test audiences' loyalty to the protagonist. This time around, things definitely move faster and are more engaging, whereas the original film relied heavily on the gorgeous landscapes.
Joseph Millson (Casino Royale) stars as Nicholas Burton, the American capable of anything in a fight for survival and he manages to remain likeable no matter how dark the path takes him. Why filmmakers feel compelled to saddle their heroes with kids in sequels is beyond me, but occasionally a child actor will surprise you, and Anand Gopal does just that as Javed. The character is a welcome addition that breathes life into the majority of his scenes, and I never wanted to see him hurt or eaten, which is a good thing. The B-story following Ishani (Meenu Mishra) and her father (Sandip Datta Gupta) is a bit of a dud, peppered throughout to remind us what Nicholas is fighting for. Dad is stubborn to the point that he refuses to acknowledge the situation unraveling before him and puts his family in jeopardy because of it. The pace eventually picks up in this plotline, but mostly because Ishani finally leaves the house and joins Nick on the road to safety.
The zombie genre is as played out as the found-footage subgenre, yet both still have ardent supporters. The Ford brothers revive their tired content with the simple decision to change the traditional environment and switch to exotic locations. While the material still teeters on the edge of tedious, at least there is usually something gorgeous onscreen to distract from the familiar plot devices of people evading the walking dead. The Dead 2 does paint our hero into some pretty ugly corners and promises only more pain by the end of the film, and I appreciate the willingness to push the envelope. I hope the inevitable third chapter continues to move east into Asia, but the well of ideas in this series is beginning to run dry.
Video and Audio:
The Dead 2 is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is a really colorful transfer that presents a strong dynamic between the living and the dead. The landscapes are a bit drab, but detail is fairly sharp and the flesh tones remain natural.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 is the only option here and it's pretty respectable. There's plenty of atmospheric cues and some nice directional effects, but gunshots are a mixed bag when it comes to consistency. English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
The supplements are a little light this time around, in that Anchor Bay included an audio commentary with the directors on the original film, but not so for the sequel. This is a shame, as I would like to hear more of their stories about the challenges they faced while filming in this environment.
The highlight here is a half-hour “making of” piece that follows the standard formula of talking head interviews with the directors intercut with scenes from their movie. In this case, the Ford brothers discuss the history of the production and there is a lot of nice material shot on set in addition to the finished footage. The highlight is seeing the gear the crew worked with to achieve some of the aerial photography as well as the non-traditional camera moves. The Ford brothers are enthusiastic and proud of their work and it is fun to hear their stories about filming in India.
There are also a pair of deleted scenes (4 minutes) that do not really add much to the film and were wisely cut.