Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bloody Nightmares #23: Dead 7 (2000)

What surprises me as I work my way through this collection of ultra low budget films is just how much variation there is in terms of quality and skill level, even when dealing with equally minimal resources. Actual talent shines very brightly when surrounded by mediocrity (at best), even when that talent is still in a developing stage. Dead 7 is a slasher movie with a zombie twist, and - though it was shot on video with the usual low budget trappings - it overcomes many of its limitations through the sheer efforts and talent of the production crew. It's a quite professional looking film, and when technical credits are solid it means a lot fewer distractions when actually watching.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the ludicrous introduction featuring a leather-jacket adorned "punk" doing his best growly metal voice as he sits on a skull-covered table. He gives a brief plot synopsis and then ends with " are Dead 7". Whatever the hell that means. I'm guessing this section was tacked on by Brain Damage Inc. - the original distributor - so, i'm not going to hold it against actual director Garrett Clancy.

In fact, the watch-ability of this production is almost solely because of Clancy's directorial chops, as while it never quite feels like a feature film (these shot-on-video productions always have an amateur feel), his approach feels like that of an experienced director. There's a polish - and I almost hate to use that word - missing from most of the films in this collection, and there's very little of the sound problems, video glitches, terrible lighting and awful continuity which have typified the productions so far. It's actually rather refreshing.

The plot is fairly standard. Meth dealer Brownley Dawkins (Joe Myles), along with his cronie Franky, murder a crooked associate who has ripped them off, dumping his body in an abandoned mine shaft in the woods. Unfortunately for Franky, he accidentally leaves his wallet at the scene of the crime, and even worse the pair run into their respective girlfriends (along with tag-along Drusilla (Gina Zachory), a significantly more sympathetic friend) who they drag back with them. Meanwhile, the rather unstable Venus Equinox (Delia Copold) is searching the area for her deaf and mute brother Harley, who accidentally stumbles upon the group before being unceremoniously left to die in the shaft.

Jump ahead three years and.. guess what? The group start being killed off one by one by a mystery murderer who may or may not be the zombiefied corpse of poor Harley. Drusilla runs into the now totally batshit Venus, only then becoming aware of the heinous crime she was part of, but it's already too late for her pals who suffer death by stabbing, death by OD, and other nasty ways of disposal. Brownley - who likes to get off while looking at polaroids of his victims - finally confronts Venus, before meeting a terrifically ironic fate.

Won't win any points for originality, and certainly it's not actually scary - the victims are all pretty much reprehensible, and since their murders are always shown from the first person their deaths don't tend to be very creative. But it's all actually surprisingly entertaining, as there's some fun dialogue (and plenty of strange line deliveries), and smatterings of nudity and gore from a very game cast. No academy award winners here, but everyone is obviously trying hard, particularly Myles as Brownlee who gives the oddest, but somehow most enjoyable, performance.

As mentioned, the film looks fine - though relies rather heavily on only a few locations (it makes Brownley look rather silly to hide a body in what appears to be quite a popular hangout) and there are only a couple of  scenes which feel underlit. I was actually very impressed by the score composed by Jon Greathouse, which suits the action very well without being repetitive, or relying on generic rock songs.

Dead 7 is presented full frame, shot on video. There appear to be a few dropped frames, but nothing too distracting and the film looks fine - despite being packed on a disc with three other movies. Oh, and being part of the Bloody Nightmares we of course get absolutely no extras and no chapter stops. Because apparently that would be too darn difficult.

A pleasant enough time waster, Dead 7 is one of the more adept of the no-budget offerings encountered in the Bloody Nightmares box-set. It's directed with style, but doesn't overwhelm with visual tricks, and it's easy to see why director Garrett Clancy has gone on to slicker fare - or, at least straight-to-dvd productions starring C. Thomas Howell. I would still hesitate to actually call it a good film, but it goes down easy and horror fans should get some decent kicks out of it.

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