Time for our first “Zombie-licious” Halloween Review of the month! First up, a look at 2009’s Scottish zombie fest “The Dead Outside”. At least… at first glance it certainly looks like a zombie film…. but we all know how sometimes looks can be deceiving…..
Our synopsis for it goes like this: “In the stark aftermath of a neurological pandemic, two strangers come together on an isolated Scottish farm. April, a 16 year old survivor with a dark past has survived alone for months. Daniel, a man bereaved, clings desperately on to hope of life in the outside world. Questioning his own sanity in the face of the maddened and distant cries of the suffering, he finds that the true enemy is not the virus, but something much closer to home.”
In actuality…. to be fair, this one isn’t a “true” zombie film. Taking a cue from “28 Days Later” this one is really one of those movies in the genre featuring hordes of poor brain dead disease victims doing the whole crazy rabies thingee…..You know the drill…. lots of crazy pissed off folk just roaming around killing everybody they run across until they up and die horribly for real. Sorta depressing, but close enough to the zombies we know and love, right? Close enough for your Favorite Catgirl to give the Region 2 UK release a chance anyway….
Will we get the scary “zombie-ish” horror we’re lookin’ for in this one? Or will we just end up wishin’ everybody had just got their flu shots and put in for the sick leave from work? One way to know for certain…. and that’s to “Read On”!!
Our cast here is small…. no surprise, given the low budget of this one. There’s really only 5 people in the cast… and that’s assuming you count Daniel’s wife and daughter who only show up briefly in flashbacks and hallucinations scattered throughout the story. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself…. and we really only have to focus our attentions on two main characters… Daniel and April…. and the wary dynamic that develops between them as they cautiously share the little farmhouse that serves as our one and only location.
Director Kerry Anne Mullaney seems to prefer this approach… and it does give the story a lonely isolated feeling throughout. However… if you were expecting the usual “Trapped in the Deserted Farmhouse to fend off the relentless assault of the Living Dead” scenario…. well, people,…. Neko’s here to tell you that just ain’t gonna happen. Apparently 6 months into this particular “Zombie Holocaust”, most of the zombies are already dead and buried. The ones still lurching about? Despite Daniel (played by Alton Milne) constantly harping about the danger…. they seem pretty easy to take care of.
So what’s left then? Mostly the weird and uneasy danger posed by April (played by Sandra Louise Douglas) herself. She’s spent a lot of time alone…. surviving in the little farmhouse… whacking the occasional plague victim dumb enough to get stuck in her makeshift barricade fencing and just simmering away waiting for that single event to set her off on the road to Crazytown. Carolyn found April to be….. sorta disturbing. I just thought she might already have the virus…. that somehow her way to express it was all this eerie paranoia she displays throughout the film. I figured she’d take Daniel in like some lost puppy in need of rescue, get our boy to trust her…. just in time to finally take him out in a bloody fit or something right around the climax.
Stuff doesn’t improve with the entrance of the final member of our little group, Kate (played by Sharon Osdin) who shows up one day out of the blue and wants to share the shelter of the farmhouse. April’s first gut instinct is to shoot her…. and only Daniel’s quick intervention prevents this. An uneasy truce gets reached, allowing Kate to come in and rest…. but we kept waiting for April to sneak up and do her in…. seriously.
Much of our film goes along like this…. far less zombies and far more character driven plot than I’m used to…. all filmed beautifully if somewhat starkly overall. Director Mullaney seems to like those “off kilter” camera angles too…. and uses them perhaps a bit too often… to push that sense that everything is out of control. It sorta works the first few times it’s done, but gets a bit old after a while.
Do we ever get any “zombie action”? Not really… even at the climax our zombie “hoard” is really more of a few guys sorta showing up all at the same time…. I’ve been mobbed more at a bus stop than this group really manages. Unfortunately… as a “Zombie Film”, Neko has to say “The Dead Outside” doesn’t really work. As a look at isolation and fear of strangers and society it fares better. Overall I can give it 3 “Meows” out of 5, mostly for the setting itself, which almost over-shines the cast as a character in it’s own right. Of our cast itself… Sandra Louise Douglas’s role as April is worthy of a special mention. She gives this one her all, and comes out as the one standout among a mostly forgettable group of characters.
The Region 2 DVD is simple, but does come with a nice “Making of” feature that is, in some ways, almost better than the movie itself. Not a film most zombie fans will want to own… but definitely worth a rental. Oh well…. maybe I’ll have better luck next time out….. Sigh.
Trailer? Yep… with all the “zombie” fun intact…. Hehehehe!!