Monday, October 27, 2014

30 Days of Nightmares #27: DEAD WITHIN (2014)

The Story: A couple is trapped in their house for six months following a zombie apocalypse.  Naturally, they get stir crazy.

Expectations: A few years ago I saw an exceptional little horror movie called RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR, which takes place almost entirely in one claustrophobic location with one character.  So, you see, it can be done....

Reaction: This film starts six months after the shit has hit the fan.  The horror lies behind the characters, rather than in front of them.  Now they just have to live with their disgust with each other, as well as their growing disgust with life in general.  This scenario reminds me of some of the smartest scenes in DAWN OF THE DEAD, when the survivors realize that they have insulated themselves from real life and opted for a dehumanizing facsimile instead.  They survived the apocalypse, but now they're going to be bored to death.  The thing is: DAWN OF THE DEAD balanced those scenes out with a lot of action, comedy and horror.  DEAD WITHIN doesn't.  There is only the ennui suggested by the title, which becomes almost as boring for the audience (especially one that has seen dozens--if not hundreds--of zombie movies in the years since the original DAWN OF THE DEAD) as it is for the characters.

Admittedly, things do get a little more interesting in the last act.  At that point, DEAD WITHIN becomes a film about psychological disintegration.  Instead of being threatened by zombies (there are, in fact, NO zombies in this film), the two survivors become imagined threats to each other.  It's a clever twist, but the twist doesn't quite justify the entire film.  DEAD WITHIN is competent filmmaking, but not very dynamic storytelling. And I can't help but notice that four screenwriters are credited... for a film that only features two characters?!

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: There are a couple of genuinely freaky dead baby delusions.  But freaky dead baby delusions do not a movie make.

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