Friday, June 22, 2012

Movie Appraisal: Dead Air (2009)

"People get the government they deserve, so fuck your people."

Dead Air is yet another radiohost-centered zombie film. It shares a few similarities with Pontypool, but for the most part the movies are completely different, with both different styles and different feels. While Pontypool is an incredibly good movie with a few small issues, Dead Air is rougher all the way around. It is the worse movie of the two, so before you choose which of these two movies you should watch (It should be Pontypool.) realize that this is just not as good of a movie.

That being said, it's not a bad movie either. Most of the movie is both suspenseful and tense, although there is very little horror here. Hell, barely any gore either. You did get the barest bit of nudity with a single bare breast showing before and after a woman gets turned into a zombie, but it easily done much more for the art than to be a sexual thing. And that's fine, but it seems both out of place and a little odd. But I digress.

As much as I'd like to call this a zombie horror film, it really isn't. It's very much a zombie thriller, something I've never really seen before. The horror is so downplayed and kind of pushed aside that it never really feels all that scary. The scariest element in the movie is the human element, and that really leads me into saying it's much more of a thriller than a horror film.

There's also a ton of stock footage in this movie and... well, I rolled my eyes a ton. I hate stock footage in films, and seeing both basketball and riot stock footage basically made me have a dislike for the movie from the get go. I didn't dislike this movie after it was over though. Rather I found it somewhat effective, often kind of amusing, and generally fun to watch. It does have its problems, but for the most part it is a fun zombie flick to watch, even if it isn't even close to the best around. Corbin Bernsen (I know him as the father on Psych, so maybe you will too.) directs an all around competent horror film. If Pontypool hadn't come out around the same time and been all around better I might be giving this film a better pass, but... I guess that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes.

So, there's a Bible quotation in the beginning: "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." -Matthew 6:34. How do I take this? What does it even mean? Well, as a knowledgeable person about Biblical and theological STUFF, I'll tell you. It's talking about anxiety, and the idea that anxiety should be saved for the things that are happening now rather than things that could or might happen. Jesus says it so it must be true.

I kid, but seriously, it's a pretty decent passage to use when talking about terrorism or stuff, but does not really work for the message in the movie, unless the message is don't worry about anything and US government, dudes, you really shouldn't make zombie biological weapons that can be hijacked by Iranian terrorists so easily. I guess that's a pretty valid message though, isn't it?

Moving on, although I did find large chucks of the dialogue in the movie pretty snappy and fun to listen to, I found the actors not very good in general. I mean, Bill Moseley is the best actor there (playing the main character Logan), but even he seems to have a pretty big problem acting effectively. It seems that everybody has the same kind of acting issues, overacting or being more comedic than serious... and it comes off very strangely, kind of like the movie is more comedy than it is serious, which I don't think is the intention. The acting can be pretty hard to watch at times and it's the BIG THING that Pontypool shines in over Dead Air. I have to believe it had to do with the direction rather than every actor suddenly having a ton of issues, but I have no idea. All I know is that it is really odd and takes one right out of the movie. Again, the dialogue is actually pretty good though despite the acting. The cat food discussion in the beginning is comedy genius, and much of the dialogue is quick-paced and enjoyable. I just wish better actors or more effective actors had those lines since mostly they come off as a tad forced. There is stuttering as well and I wonder how much of the dialogue was on and off script. It would be an interesting thing to be able to figure out.

The movie is very tense though. Engaging even for the most part. But then there are these odd moments of comedy sprinkled in, like Logan's ex-wife and producer Lucy (played by Patricia Tallman) putting a small plant up as part of a barricade against a door that opens outward. At least Logan had the same response, word-for-word as I did while I talked to my screen.

I think I was expecting the film to be smarter or more intelligent than it actually ended up being. I was wondering if the zombies were blind because their eyes were bleeding. I was wondering if that would come into play. It didn't. I was expecting some character development, some kind of hero or something to emerge... but it never happened. I was expecting a big fight or some great jump-scare cheesy ending... but no,cit was cheesy and dumb in another way entirely. I mean I though Logan's cough was setting up his change into a zombie, but he never does. I figured Gabbi would murder him in zombie form... or his daughter would... but no, they aren't zombies and Gabbi seems immune for some reason. I just want to sigh and keep sighing at the sappy, overly dramatic ending to a horror movie where no horror really ever happens.

The funny thing is that the movie never disappointed me. It was baffling at times, but came off as a pretty usual and standard horror affair for the most part. I didn't like certain parts of the film, but the suspense was good and the tension worked quite well through the first three-fourths of the movie. Not so well after that though. Then it became awfully ridiculous, but it was good for a little while despite the acting.

The political message here is obvious, and obviously one of my least favorite parts. It's about terrorism, but not really, about the US being terrible, but not really. It has a soft political message that never really says anything and goes around and around itself and I find it kind of dumb and offensive. Why didn't labs notice that a bunch of their created zombie virus had gone missing? I think it was kind of dumb with some inconsistencies, but that's probably me thinking too hard.

I don't really feel the need to recommend this film. Watch Pontypool instead. They are very similar films but Pontypool does everything better. The acting is better. You can relate with the characters. The plot means something more than blanketed political messages. The radio program is much more enjoyable to listen to. It's a much more artistic film. And it has a great deal more gore and fun to it. So, yeah, I won't say to avoid this one at all costs. It's not bad, but I can't really recommend it without saying it's a worse version of Pontypool, and that's not much of a compliment.

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