Wednesday, May 9, 2007

DEAD AND DEADER

I’d heard good things about director Patrick Dinhut’s zombie comedy, DEAD AND DEADER (2006), and was eager to check it out. As it turned out, I didn’t find it to be as good as I’d heard, but it’s not a total disaster, either.

A team of U.S. Special Ops are sent into Cambodia to investigate the loss of contact with a research team. When they find the research lab, they find a terrarium filled with green scorpions, and a bunch of zombies. The whole team is quickly overwhelmed and killed. Back in the States, Lt. Quinn (Dean Cain, Superman in LOIS & CLARK) wakes up on a morgue slab just in time to prevent his own autopsy. Now dead, but able to retain his intelligence and self-control, he sets out to destroy the other re-animated members of his team before they can spread the zombie plague – in this case, in the form of those scorpions.

Okay, it’s kinda funny. The parts that fall flat, though, are the pop culture, geek-service references. One: because they’re lame (Who’s the best James Bond? Again? With the obligatory Lazenby slam?), and Two: neither Dean nor his hot love interest (Susan Ward, WILD THINGS 2) are convincing as pop culture nerds. Okay, it’s amusing that they discuss the relative merits of the two DAWN OF THE DEAD films while hunting down zombies on a military base, but it’s also kinda obvious.

That said, the pacing is brisk, and there are some decent zombie kills and gore effects. STAR TREK vets Armin Shimmerman (DS9’s Quark) and Peter Billingsly (whatever the doctor’s name was on ENTERPRISE) show up for brief cameos, and 70’s-80’s starlet Colleen Camp (GAME OF DEATH) appears in a sizeable supporting role.

Anchor Bay (or is it Starz Media, now?) presents the movie in a fairly sharp 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with Dolby 5.1 surround sound. Extra features include a pretty entertaining audio commentary with writers Steve Kriozere and Mark Altman (FREE ENTERPRISE). There’s also a decent behind-the-scenes featurette that at least indicates the cast and crew had fun making the movie. Finally, there’s a photo gallery, the script on DVD-ROM, and trailers for other Anchor Bay/Starz horror films.

Here’s the thing: SHAUN OF THE DEAD raised the bar on "zombie comedies," and DEAD AND DEADER just doesn’t measure up. It’s amusing, but not as funny as it wants to be. For what it is – a direct-to-DVD and SciFi Channel B-flick – it works well enough, though, and is better than most comparable efforts.

There are worst ways to spend 89 minutes. Worth a rental, anyway.

BUY: Dead and Deader