September 25, 2010

Dead Genesis (Review)

Dead Genesis  (2010)

Writer / Director: Reese Eveneshen

4 / 5 zedheads

The first five minutes of Dead Genesis hits like a machete to the stomach that leaves you standing wide-eyed and clutching at your unspooling intestines. In Dead Genesis, you will see things you've probably never seen before in a zombie film.

Dead Genesis manages to be an effectively shocking, introspective, artfully shot, and at times satirical new addition to the zombie genre despite the fact that it is an independent film with all the budgetary and production restrictions therein. Out of adversity, however, comes victory, and Dead Genesis hits one clear out of the park. Yes, at times the message is too forceful and the supporting characters are too hammy, but Dead Genesis overcomes it all to become one of the best independent zombie films I've ever seen.

A face like a dog's breakfast only a mother could love
Written and directed by Reese Eveneshen, Dead Genesis takes place seven months after the dead rise to feast on the flesh of the living. Society has managed to avoid total destruction -- the army is still operating, capitalism struggles on, and a new media network has been established -- but many cities have been abandoned to the chaos of the undead. In this nightmare scenario, an amateur documentarian named Jillian Hurst (Emily Alatalo) sets out to make a film about the DeadHeads: one of the many citizen zombie hunting groups that patrol the cities and rural forests as part of what is commonly called "The War on Dead." Among the DeadHeads is their beleaguered leader Krovin (Colin Paradine) and his second-in-command,  the silent and lovely but deadly-effective Cricket (Erin Stuart). Although Jillian is not an outright supporter of the war, she plans to make a pro-war documentary to show the heroic work of the DeadHeads in their fight to protect America for the lost, scared, and confused people back home. What she finds, however, is that the DeadHeads are not the heroes she expects. They're as lost, scared, and confused as everyone else -- even more so as they struggle day-to-day on the front lines of brutality and moral ambiguity. 

Something tells me these particular DeadHeads are not music lovers.
Dead Genesis is a film with a message about the soul-crushing effects of violence and brutality, but it's also a satisfying film for zombie gore and carnage. Like the works of George A. Romero, Dead Genesis has a contemporary message about violence in society and how we objectify our enemies and one another. Predictably, the film is therefore more about character dynamics than plot. Unfortunately, this can lead to some narrative drag at the mid-point of the film. Thankfully, though, the message does not supersede the story or the action unlike in some of Romero's recent heavy-handed fare. I love a zombie film with a good message and metaphor, but gore hounds too will find a satisfying offering of fleshy violence and gut-munching in Dead Genesis. In particular, the first five minutes of the film has some zombie violence that is truly shocking given the victim of the zombie attack. I will say no more.

Reach out and touch someone
The only significant criticism I have is of the acting. Our leads are quite good; in particular, Colin Paradine as Krovin is solid as a rock. Whether through talent or circumstance, Emily Alatalo also manages to convey Jillian's insecurities in a sincere and believable way. No, the worst offenders are the many secondary characters who ham it up on screen. In particular, prepare yourselves for a bar scene in which the slimy bartender Rafe (Christopher Lee Grant) is completely cringe-worthy.
For only $1 a day, you can help feed hungry zombies in need
As is common in independent film, there's some very unfortunate uses of weak CGI to fill in background shots, fire effects, and blood sprays, but they are kept at a minimum. The film compensates with some very good practical blood and gore effects where they COULD have used CGI, and I appreciate the practical approach. Also, the film is beautifully shot on a fairly steady hand-held camera. The film is very bright, very clear, very sharp, and incredibly flexible and inventive with the camera shots and angels. This is not a fly-by-night operation by a couple of friends with a camera. It's clear that writer, director, and cinematographer Reese Eveneshen has an auteur's eye for film. Keep your eyes on this young Canadian director. Dead Genesis is a showcase for the kind of real talent that is out there in independent film.

And, yes, I'm quite proud that this film is Canadian. In particular, it doesn't FEEL Canadian (many Canadian films have a peculiar taste about them that's hard to ignore). Filmed in and around Ontario, Dead Genesis will nevertheless connect with audiences and zombie fans outside of Canada.

Dead Genesis is now available on DVD. Buy your copy today.