With his latest feature Deadsight, director Jesse Thomas Cook attempts to put a new spin on the rapidly-deteriorating zombie genre by making the protagonist partially blind. Unfortunately, that proves to be the only somewhat original thing in a competently-made but “been there, done that” horror flick.
The plot is as bare-bones as it gets. Ben (Adam Seybold) wakes up in the wake of a deadly virus. He’s in the back of an ambulance, handcuffed to a rail, his eyes bandaged, the world blurry. No one seems to respond to his cries for help on the radio. After barely escaping from a zombie, he begins to walk down the eerily quiet, empty road.
“Ben wakes up in the wake of a deadly virus…. handcuffed to a rail, his eyes bandaged, the world blurry.”
Only someone has heard his cry for help – Mara (Liv Collins, also the film’s co-writer), a young, pregnant police officer. Their paths intercept at a not-quite-abandoned house. Skeptical of Ben at first, Mara soon leaves him with an ax and goes to find the ambulance. In her absence, Ben escapes several more zombies, before stumbling on Gator (Ry Barett) – a local hick who has been infected and consequently asks Ben to shoot him.
Eventually, Ben and Mara reunite and hide in an elaborately-constructed building, filled with crimson tunnels. When Mara starts having contractions, Ben sets out to save her. Call it the blind leading the pregnant. The finale aims for “touching” but ends up deeply underwhelming.
That general blasé vibe permeates the narrative, mostly due to the characters being so sketchily drawn. The film is minimalist to a fault. There’s very little dialogue, which made me wish the filmmaker went all out and made it a silent zombie film about a blind man – that would’ve been (sort of) clever.
“Adrian Ellis’ synth score keeps things atmospheric, and the editing/cinematography are crisp.”
Our heroes’ lack of a coherent plan echoes an aimless script. Deadsight takes a while to get going, and when it does, it stumbles around in circles, resembling, well, a zombie. Ben and Mara secure hiding spots and flee from them repeatedly. Zombies get dismembered by a variety of tools – ax, shovel, machete, makeshift walking stick, shotgun – but it’s never remotely jolting or frightening. As a side-note, Ben has uncannily good aim considering his blindness – particularly in one crucial shot.
That’s not to say Cook’s film is without merit. Some of the dialogue, as little as there is, is knowingly witty. (“Have you had anything stressful happen to you recently?” Ben earnestly asks Mara towards the end.) Adrian Ellis’ synth score keeps things atmospheric, and the editing/cinematography are crisp. The leads valiantly do their best to transcend their characters’ lack of depth. Yet Deadsight is ultimately nothing exceptional, proving again that it will take a true cinematic genius to resuscitate the zombie genre.