On the poster for “Dead/Undead”, cult hero Bruce Campbell is quoted saying “It didn’t suck as much as I thought it was going to”. Let me be the first to echo this statement. “Dead/Undead” is a slick little low-budget chiller that horror fans should definitely check out. It looks good, it’s competently shot, the acting is above average, and there are even a few “boo!” moments to be had.
That being said, I’ll try and give a capsule of the plot. It will be tough – to be honest, I had a tough time figuring out what was going on. It isn’t that “Dead/Undead” is underwritten, it just has a very convoluted MacGuffin of a purpose.
Four troubled teens are taken to a cabin in the woods for a weekend of … therapy? Tough love? – by a cheerful counselor, his ditsy co-ed assistant and a young tough cop. Before long, night falls, a ghost story is told, and three of the kids sneak out into the forest. Before long, the teens and the cabin are attacked by a mysterious, cloaked creature reminiscent of the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come. Blood flows, zombies crop up, one girl is turned into a vampire… here’s where the story started to break down for me. The monster’s motivations were vaguely explained during the campfire tale – something about an ancient feud between good and evil, with evil winning even after it’s killed – though why it makes zombies out of men and vampires out of women, I’m not terribly sure.
On the other hand, plot in horror movies are largely incidental anyway. What most viewers will be concerned with is the way the action is handled. With four directors, you would think the movie would be all over the place, visually, but it’s quite the opposite. Nothing ever feels out-of-place or in contrast with anything else. When the movie does “Evil Dead” all over the place, you expect nothing else. The flying “Shaky-Cam” footage is used to good effect and is kept to a minimum. All in all, you get the impression that everyone in front and behind the camera had a clear idea of what they were doing and what they were there for. The evidence for this: much of the action takes place at night, but was obviously shot day-for-night – and everyone was smart enough to keep the sky out of the shot as much as possible, so as to not give the effect away. Even though this footage is high-contrast and blue-tinted, it’s still perfectly clear. Little is lost in the shadows, and the color helps masquerade some of the clumsier gore effects (which, too, are kept to a minimum, allowing for shock, rather than gross-out).
To their ultimate credit, the quartet of filmmakers attempted to give their potential audience something different. There was a purpose behind the action, and muddy-plot aside, they should be commended for their efforts.