Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Dead and the Damned 2 Offers Lots of Action But Few Villains: A Movie Review

*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by the director, Rene Perez.

Director: Rene Perez.

Writers: Barry Massoni and Rene Perez.

Cast: Robert Tweten, Iren Levy, John J. Welsh, Richard Tyson and Raven Lexy.

The Dead and the Damned 2 was released earlier this year and this reviewer missed the release. Thanks to the director, Rene Perez, this film made its way onto this critic's radar and a review of this sequel is hosted here. Also known as The Dead and the Damned and the Darkness, this indie horror feature is a blend of action and thriller and horror genres. In the story, a lone soldier hopes to put his wife's ashes to rest, but a whole world of mutants lie in wait. Full of great exterior settings, this film offers no real central villain. Still, The Dead and the Damned 2 offers an entertaining time, in a zombie apocalypse.

The film begins with Lt. Sawyer (Robert Tweten). He went to war against a virulent plague, in Europe and Africa. He returns home to find his wife dead and his daughter missing. Then, he tasks himself with spreading his wife's ashes into the ocean. But, he must pass through roadblocks and hordes of creatures, to complete his quest. Along the way, he rescues a deaf woman and a hobo, along with a few other survivors. However, no sentient being, nor a malicious villain stands against Sawyer. This lack of a malefactor was a missed opportunity.

Still, the settings in the film look believable. Many of the scenes are shot as exteriors. The roadways and dead ends are realistically trash strewn and full of abandoned cars. Each outside location looks like it should as a wasteland. The interior settings also look good, but less believable. Interiors look overly clean and tidy. The exteriors were well dressed, while interiors looked more austere.

The Dead and the Damned 2 blends a few genres. Centrally, the film is much like an '80s action yarn, in the vein of Albert Puyn's Cyborg (1989). Both films focus on a central hero, cast into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. And, these two films involve the rescue of several survivors. But, Gibson (Jean-Claude Van Damme), in Cyborg, must deal with a malicious blackhat, in the climax; that is not the case here. Secondary genres found here include horror and thriller ones. The horror elements are relegated to the presence of mutants. They are dressed in gory prosthetic masks and makeup. They hound the protagonist, at every turn. Few night scenes relegate the horror elements to a few action scenarios. Thriller elements include a few chase sequences and setups. The minor character, Stephanie (Iren Levy), is accosted by a minor villain. Her rescue involves a mutant attack, which brings about a few exciting scenes. The thriller genre is slightly underrepresented here, too. Still, director Rene Perez manages to bring a number of great action sequences to the screen.

This viewer's main criticism involves the conflict. Much of the protagonist's struggle comes from within. He is dealing with grief. And, actor Robert Tweten delivers some quality emotion. But, it would have been even more interesting to have seen Sawyer trying to outwit an exterior challenge, like a central villain. In the film, the villains are minimized to just the mutants and one other minor character. These characters bring some tension, but very little authentic conflict. Some of the best conflict can come from a hero overcoming exterior challenges, not just interior ones. The lack of a villain really dampened the possibility of a satisfying climax.

The Dead and the Damned 2 released in early October, through various formats and this viewer would recommend the title to fans of zombie features or to fans of post-apocalyptic thrillers. This title is not really a sequel to the original film, The Dead and the Damned (2011), also known as Cowboys and Zombies. The two films are only tied together through a final scene, which involves a few flashbacks to the original film. Instead, this title is more of a stand alone title, involving action sequences and a few horror and thriller elements. An enjoyable watch, The Dead and the Damned 2 is a quality ride through a dangerous zombie infested landscape.

*the DVD artwork for this title is a little misleading. This film is not a zombie western and is actually set in a futuristic landscape.

Overall: 6.75 out of 10 (the protagonist is slightly rounded, minor characters develop Sawyer's story a little more, the climax is anti-climactic, conflicts are minimized).

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