The Dead

the-dead

Making a zombie movie about a white man struggling against hordes of Africans was problematic at best. The Ford Brothers (Howard and Jon) don’t avoid this in The Dead, but rather meditate on the cultural divide. Their two protagonists, American naval engineer Brian (Rob Freeman, a Billy Bob Thornton-type) and AWOL soldier Daniel (Prince David Osei), are ambivalent: Brian’s quick to search for a way out of the country after the last plane home crashes (until the third act, he’s a cipher); Daniel also seeks escape, but has the more tangible goal of finding his evacuated son at a distant military base. Their cooperation is based on necessity, represented in a rickety truck Brian gets working. The pair bond not through words–they exchange few–but tasks, a dynamic reminiscent of Fumito Ueda’s Ico (one scene has them fixing the truck as zombies bear down on them). With Brian remote like the sun-blasted, sub-Saharan plains, the traditional zombie movie arc–the road movie’s grisly brother–by default falls on Daniel, who both fits and upsets Western stereotypes of the continent: he’s hulking and carries a machete, but eloquent and intelligent. Pragmatic, not violent. Daniel’s big fear is being trapped in this place (he asks a villager why he’s staying), the son he wishes to emigrate with his only hope. Yet, the focus drifts back to Brian: as the journey grows more perilous, he becomes an abstraction–Western civilization’s parasitic relationship with African nations (every gain he makes comes at the cost to others). His good deeds are transitory, and he can only furrow his brow when Daniel asks about abandoned humanitarian aid, struggling with his own selfish desires in the face of mass tragedy. Only at world’s end does Brian do something truly noble: stay with the dying, rather than continue seeking comfort.

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