The DVD box for Adam Deyoe’s Dead Season purports it to be yet another non-descript entry in the rapidly growing subgenre of zombie apocalypse movies that you, I, and everyone else is likely sick to death of at this point. I guess “zombie apocalypse” is the lazy sell these days. I think the marketers of the flick would have done much better to emphasize the real monsters of the film: regular cannibals. Yes, Dead Season (read: strawberry season) is less about its zombies (which it does have plenty of) than it is about regular people who have to munch on one another to survive. That’s way more interesting to me than the usual zombie mayhem and fight-to-survive that we’ve seen in literally hundreds of recent movies.
Dead Season picks up where most zombie flicks end: Our heroes have landed on a remote island where other human survivors have congregated away from zombies. That there was a zombie apocalypse is kind of glossed over in a brief prologue. I think the mechanics of a zombie virus epidemic is so familiar, it requires little exposition. Anyway, our hero Elvis (Scott Peat) has teamed up with the tough Tweeter (Marissa Merrill), and they think they’ve seen the last of the zombies. Sadly, they fall into an enclave of ultra-violent and overprotective white guys who are led by the stern and aptly named Kurt (James C. Burns), who demands total loyalty from our heroes in order for them to live with him in his zombie-free rhombus. The zombies, however, can still wash up on shore from time to time, and there will be plenty of undead fights to keep the gorehounds satisfied. The twist with these zombies: when they first become infected, they can run. As they age, they slow to a shamble. Something for both sides of the Zombie Speed Debate.
Oh my yes, there is cannibalism. Deyoe is especially careful to let his camera linger over long shiny quivering strands of raw human eviscera and they are pulled from human bones and shoved into a meat drier to make human jerky. The meat doesn’t have the ultra-red fake look of most horror films, but the sickening pale browns of real organ meat. The gore effects are, I must say, first rate. It’s not long before our heroes are debating the ethics of cannibalism, and finding how easy it is to chew on human meat to survive. Eventually Tweeter resolves to leave the gross feast, and take Kurt’s pretty teenage daughter Rachael (the toothsome and doe-eyed Corsica Wilson) with her.
It must be noted that Tweeter looks almost identical to Alice, Milla Jovovich’s character from the Resident Evil movies. She has the same thin frame, the same shorts and tank top, the same Docs, the same black fingerless gloves, and the same kicky red hairdo. She has an almost identical physique. And her fighting skills are about as good. I’m not sure if this counts as homage, as rip-off, or as a new archetype. One advantage Tweeter has over her B-movie soul sister: she bothers to have a few nude sex scenes.
You know what? Screw it. I kinda liked Dead Season. I’ll judge it the same way they would in Fangoria Magazine: by its mayhem. The fighting is fun, the gore is awesome, there’s boobs. Period. Also cannibals, dude. Cannibals! The climax, wherein Elvis, Tweeter and Rachael have to flee on a boat, and fight their way through a zombie hoard, is better photographed and way more exciting than the typical zombie fight movie climax. What the heck. See it. It’s a little better than average. Sure, it’s not as deep or as turgid as it would like to be, making it for a somewhat less than stellar “film,” but as it stands, it’s a perfectly decent “movie.”
The DVD features a commentary track wherein the actors say things like “I liked this scene ‘cause I was in it.” The making-of doc isn’t too much better. Stick with the film itself.