I had the pleasure yesterday of watching ‘Dead Weight‘ a great little indie horror gem all the way from my home state of Wisconsin. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from this one and to be honest, I haven’t really seen too much in the way of cinema coming out of “America’s Dairyland”. I’d have to say that Dead Weight is much less of a horror movie than it is a drama set in an apocalyptic wasteland.
I could draw some comparisons obviously to The Walking Dead, as I’m fairly certain that writers and directors Adam Bartlett and John Pata are big fans (I’ve heard the DVD will feature artwork by original Walking Dead artist Tony Moore!) but this plays out as something much more than a mere carbon copy. Sure the story revolves around a small band of survivors of some sort of viral outbreak traveling a barren landscape and yeah they meet some ultra sketchy people along the way. What we are really witnessing is one man’s psychological breakdown as he desperately travels by foot to reunite with his lover in a small northern Wisconsin city.
The movie shows flashbacks of Charlie (Joe Belknap) and his girlfriend Samantha (Mary Lindberg) before tragedy struck while at the same time following him on his journey to reunite with her after these events. I really loved the contrast between the warm colorful flashbacks and the cold, grey, dismal look of Charlie’s journey in the aftermath. Who would’ve known that Wisconsin would make such a convincing setting for a zombie wasteland?
The film really looks great too, the locations chosen really give you a feeling of dread and isolation which makes it that much more tense when other survivors enter the equation. What also grabbed me was the tightly woven story, which I might add has it’s fair share of twists and turns, something I truly appreciate in my cinematic viewing when done effectively. The short explanation for what may have caused this tragedy was also an interesting addition to the plot as it unfolded.
Dead Weight is pretty light on the violence and we barely see a “zombie” in sight anywhere throughout the movie. To me that’s great, as I’m quite honestly pretty burnt out on the zombie genre at this point. It seems people are still cranking out zombie movies by the boatloads these days, jam packed with, shoddy gore, CG blood and weak ass plot lines. That’s exactly why Dead Weight succeeds, its unique character study plays out quite differently than most zombie flicks.
Without giving too much away, I’d say this is a pretty true to life tale of how people might actually act in this type of situation. Sometimes there are no real heroes and people act simply off of their own emotions and selfish motivations, making the idea of a situation like this much more hopeless and bleak. Something this movie did a great job of portraying. That’s not to say the movie was flawless, the flashbacks were well put together but I really wasn’t fully convinced of the love and emotion Charlie and Samantha had for each other. In fact the two of them together felt a bit off at points. It would have been nice to really feel exactly what made Charlie go against all odds to try and reunite with her.
Plain and simple Dead Weight is a great slice of cinema from Wisconsin! An intriguing story and solid acting by all involved. This was a true independent film and the first for Adam Bartlett and John Pata. I was truly impressed that they pulled off a horror drama, I consider it quite daring as most people on a small budget in this genre go for the tired “over the top” zombie comedy. So kudos for putting some real heart and emotion into a memorable zombie film. That alone is an incredibly tough thing to accomplish in the sea of undead movies flowing onto the shelves these days! I’m pumped to see what these guys do next, I’d say they’re going to be putting the cheese state on the map of movie making in a big way in the near future….
Dead Weight will be released nationally on DVD and VOD January 21st, 2014. Look for it here soon on Netflix too. Check out the trailer: