Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Dead 2: India - review

2013 (UK)

Contains spoilers.

The Ford brothers, Howard J. and Jon, have a lot to be proud of with this sequel to their ambitious 2010 African zombie romp. Sumptuous cinematography, confident production and acting, a gritty, serious Romero-esque narrative and effective gore and effects; there's a very good, and earnest zombie film here, acknowledging budgetary constraints of course. Things start really well too; a polished intro sequence bathes us in the extraordinary colour and culture of this mystical South Eastern country juxtaposing shots that show the deep divisions and extreme poverty it also faces. There's a delightful score by Imran Ahmad, some nifty camera work and a seamless transfer from the first film as we learn Africa is now overrun, and the zombie virus may have reached Indian shores. It's nigh on perfect.

Nicholas Burton (Joseph Millson), an American electrical engineer is weeks from completing his wind turbine contract. Five hours from Mumbai and the new love of his life, Ishani Sharma (Meenu Mishra) he's a hundred or so metres up in the air, finishing his job for the day, when he decides to call her. Now most zombie films believe in build up; yes, some can readily be accused of dragging the whole pre-apocalypse thing out but it's generally accepted that there would be more than a few minutes between a guy stumbling off a cargo ship with a nasty bite, and vast swatches of the rural population staggering around looking for people to eat. Unless I've missed something of course, but I don't think there's an Omni-present malevolent being or ancient evil, what with the total reliance and implication it's all down to an infection spread through biting. The Dead suffered the same problems. Great set-up, stunning cinematography, etc, but some choice decisions that just lessened its credibility and left immersion wanting.

Romero championed the idea of zombies as a relentless tide, and peoples inevitable and eventual succumbing to it. Zombies were slow, they were in individually ineffectual, their strength coming from their number and persistence. Whilst the Ford brothers have perfectly captured the relentless threat, with Nicholas and companion constantly on edge and weary from the onslaught, I'm yet again faced with feelings of incredulity. It's one thing to have an ever increasing horde approach a large American mall, it's another to have a dozen or so undead, magically appear in deepest rural India, even if I'm reminded that it is the second most populous country in the world. I noted with the first film that the Ford's only run two states, set-upon and nearly set-upon. Where ever they are, whatever they're doing, whether they're on their own, when they get there, it's guaranteed the moment they sit down a zombie will appear in shot. I'd like to say again, there's some external force drawing the undead to the living, and it certainly feels that way, but I'm starting to think it might just an anxiety that should there be five minutes without some zombie action it'll be called boring or lazy film making to ensure a reason for the heroes to move on to the next scene. If The Dead 3: was on the Moon I wouldn't be surprised if Ford brothers managed to see it running amok with gut munchers.

It's a road movie to get to the one he loves, and moving, from scene to scene, location to location, is what the film ultimately is all about. On the way he picks up a companion, the young Anand Krishna Goyal as Javed, he rescues people, he shoots people, he kills a lot of zombies, he hears stories, has dreams and it's good stuff; interesting, eventful and well-shot but one can't shake off the feeling it's all mostly superfluous. For all that happens nothing really does; the journey is kind of inevitable because he has to keep moving, the deeper plot turns don't quite have the impact you feel they ought to, and the constant imminent threat dissipates as you realise Nicholas has become impervious to all attempted zombie attacks.

Nicholas, who reminded me of Chris Redfield by the end is the luckiest man alive. If it was you or I close to but one dead-eyed zombie there would be but one outcome. Nicholas? Doesn't' matter how many have gotten as close as to have their grubby mitts on him, he'll be able to shrug them off. I understand the hero has to survive but some of his encounters, when side-by-side with the periphery free-for-all are downright condescending; though I guess having a limitless-ammo gun helps, despite several earlier narrative plays that ammo is a scarce resource. The main reason he needs these hero status survival skills though may well be because of his immense lack of luck with that rarest of commodity in the zombie apocalypse, a motorised vehicle that works. Whether they meant it to become a comedic theme, whether it was the gyro-copter crash, the bike being stolen, the car falling off a cliff, or his five second late arrival at the rescue 'copter headed exactly where he wanted to go, I started to look forward to his next plane, train or automobile moment.

Look; nit-picking aside, The Dead 2: India is a sumptuous visual treat with great acting, and is a good zombie film. Whilst I'll level the same complaints to this as the last, I'll also promote all that is good with the film. It's sincere, it's realistic with its goals and it's entirely competent, and a big step above a lot of serious low budget zombie endeavours. A respectful good old fashioned Romero inspired zombie story - 6/10.


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