The Dead and the Damned DVD Review
Written and directed by Rene Perez
2010, Region 1 (NTSC), 85 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on August 1st, 2011
David Lockhart as Mortimer
Camille Montgomery as Rhiannon
Rick Mora as Brother Wolf
Robert Amstler as The German
Mortimer is a man on a mission as he pursues numerous fugitives in search for the highest paying bounty. When told of an Indian named Brother Wolf, who reportedly killed a white woman and is wanted alive by her father, Mortimer takes the challenge and is off to his next adventure. He rides to the town where the Indian was last seen and meets some of the locals. It is here that he purchases the company of Rhiannon, with the intent of using her as bait to lure Brother Wolf out of hiding.
Meanwhile, a pair of local prospectors discovers a meteor and they drag it into town, where it is split open releasing a toxic gas that turns the community into zombies. When Mortimer returns with the Indian and the lady, all three must fight for their lives if they ever plan on leaving the town again.
The Dead and the Damned is a fine idea for a mash-up genre piece, and it is well executed and cleverly timed to release around the same month as the summer blockbuster Cowboys and Aliens. For its European release, this film comes even closer to the Hollywood offering by going under the title Cowboys and Zombies.
On the surface, everything seems to click for this zombie western as there are many things going in its favor. The locations feature some breathtaking landscapes that lend an air of authenticity to the story. There is some very impressive camera work with ample use of a Steadicam to keep things moving along and first time director Rene Perez has a good eye for both genres and knows how to work in a lot of nice set-pieces along the way.
The problems the film carries are unfortunately more numerous and distracting. The acting is pretty even across the board, but nobody really stands out as particularly interesting with the exception of Rick Mora as Brother Wolf. David Lockhart sleepwalks his way through the role of Mortimer, and would perhaps shine more as a villainous sidekick than the heroic lead. Likewise, Camille Montgomery is serviceable as Rhiannon, but is given little to do beyond look pretty and scared for the first 80 minutes of the movie.
Some of the zombies actually look pretty cool and provide a few of the limited scares in the picture. Nerds will debate whether a zombie should walk, run, or shamble but all will agree that the undead should not possess an insanely high tracking ability, allowing for anticipating a target victim's escape route through the woods. These guys not only keep up, they know short cuts.
The set design is a distraction that is enhanced by the shooting style. While this is the rustic old west, the town is shiny and new as are the people and everything in it. Clean clothes and hair met with fresh paint and other distractions of cleanliness prevent the otherwise hard work from succeeding. The film is shot-on-video and at times the image is so crisp the budget restrictions show all too well. It looks like a made-for-television cheapie, complete with some silly computer effects in lieu of practical squib work for gunshot wounds or bullet holes in walls. Digital blood is seldom well done, but on a small budget it can be deadly.
Another problem with this film is the pacing and quick habit of advancing the story by way of montage or music video. The first time this trick is pulled is literally six minutes into the film. There is a lot of walking and talking in this story and while the hero rides in on a horse, the animal is quickly written out of the story before adding too much to the budget.
The Dead and the Damned had a lot of potential, on both sides of the camera, and it could have succeeded with a bit more experience. Unfortunately the bad outweighs the good here and it would have been pretty fantastic to see a zombie western where undead cowboys ride skeletal horses (as depicted on the cover box art), but audiences will have to look elsewhere for such fast-paced fun.
Video and Audio:
The disc sports a solid 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer that is every bit as clean as the feature. Colors are strong and blacks are rich without ever bleeding or giving any signs of macroblocking.
Audio is presented in a 5.1 surround mix that makes fair use of the rear channels during the gun fights, but remains front heavy for the rest of the show.
The disc includes a trailer, and nothing more.