Written and directed by: Rene Perez
Starring: David A. Lockhart, Camille Montgomery & Rick Mora
Reviewed by: Brett H.
I hated it when my dad used to watch westerns on TV. Guns and violence they may have had, but the thrill of a high speed horse chase seemed so out of my century. Great film transcends genre and oftentimes makes one appreciate a type of movie we once felt no connection with, the works of Sergio Leone being the masterpieces that made me flip a 180 on my western stance. Clint Eastwood, Gianni Garko, Franco Nero amongst others cemented my fascination of violent, over the top outlaws (I'm still eating mostly spaghetti when it comes to the Old West) and when I heard of The Dead and the Damned, I was intrigued. In theory, anyways, because as great as Leone & Ford made westerns and Romero & Fulci made zombie films, there really is no substitute for the best.
While there is gold to be panned for in ol' Californy, a troubled man named Mortimer (David A. Lockhart) makes his living the dangerous way - hunting down murderous, rapist fugitives for reward money, which he promises will go to a good cause. After collecting a blood ransom, he ventures to the next on the list, a wily native who will prove to be his biggest challenge yet. Gunfights aren't the only worries of the townsfolk when a couple goofs discover a glowing rock nestled in the woods. They reckon they should take it into town and bust it open, unwittingly releasing a demonic evil from the spirit world (or depths of space?) that turns all who breathe its misty molecules to flesh hungry zombies! Teaming with his former nemesis and a lady he purchased in town, Mortimer has to battle it out with the living dead in order for survival and to accomplish his unspoken goal.
The Dead and the Damned will be remembered for its last act if it's ever remembered at all. For the most part a serious picture with spotty acting, decent old fashioned sets and a miscast hero, those who are naturally curious about a rootin' tootin' old fashioned modern, quick on their feet zombie romp set in the 1800s will likely find enough positives to look back on their experience fondly. Structurally a typical twisting, turning outlaw movie with a crashed meteor and living dead pack thrown in for giggles, The Dead and the Damned also boasts a modern rock-centric soundtrack that oftentimes detracts from the experience. Taking zombies to the 1800s only to go Back to the Future with the soundtrack didn't feel quite right to me.
Soundtrack and the usual lower budget film jitters aside, there is a certain level of fun to be had with the mix-up of genres. The western aspect supersedes the horror tangent, but it's a nice character driven change of pace that seems iffy at first but proves to be a winning idea come climax. Much like horror, westerns have their own stereotypical plot hashes that seem predictable but always catch you off guard when the hooker with a heart of gold dies or the badass rides off into the sunset, leaving poor villagers behind for reasons only he understands. As such, don't expect many truly new ideas, but prepare for a wallop of an ending and dozens of bloody zombie headshots that'd be much more impressive if it wasn't the same basic green splatter CGI effect virtually every time.
Released on DVD from Inception, The Dead and the Damned looks pretty dang good with an anamorphic widescreen transfer and clear audio. Colors are vibrant and show off the nice sets well, even though perhaps some grain or de-saturation could have made sets look less fresh and cartoony. It is a rough and tumble mining town, afterall. The lone extra is a theatrical trailer. All things considered, I found The Dead and the Damned to be pleasing on a western fan and zombie fanatic level, but I have to question just how many horror fans out there will be willing to sit through western-type drama to make it to the full fledged zombie attack. With lost loves, fallen friends and an outlaw who wouldn't scare a fly, yet somehow takes down bad guys with ease, my Stetson's still off to The Dead and the Damned. Rent it!
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