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Dead Season (2012)

Image Entertainment
DVD Released: 7/31/2012

All Ratings out of





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/20/2012

Islands are nothing new in zombie stories. When the video game Dead Island debuted last year, I'm sure that many found the island setting a novel idea. However, if you look at the history of zombie movies, the pre-Romero films focused on more traditional zombies in places like Haiti. The islands came back into play with the early 80s Italian zombie movies such as Zombie and Dr. Butcher, M.D. 2004's Dawn of the Dead remake ended with an island. So, the appearance of an island in Dead Season did nothing to move the "novel meter" for the movie...as did little else found here.

Dead Season opens several months after a zombie apocalypse and the world is in shambles. Elvis (Scott Paet) has been surviving on his own, living off of canned food and wielding his trusty sledgehammer, when he meets Tweeter (Marissa Merrill), a woman on the run. Elvis has made plans to leave in a boat and he offers to take Tweeter with him. After narrowly escaping the marina, the pair sail to an island. There, they are detained by Conrad's (James C. Burns) men. Conrad explains that the small group on the island does their best to survive and that they occasional get "walkers" from the cruise ship which crashed off-shore. Elvis and Tweeter are indoctrinated into life on the island and learn that it certainly has its pros and cons. However, they also soon learn that the odd and stand-offish behavior by some of the men is just the top layer to some bizarre secrets.

As with its Italian cousins, Dead Season offers the distinct images of having grisly zombie attack scenes take place on sunny island beaches. This is one of the trademarks of this sub-genre and this film offers some nice examples of this. However, this also points to the fact that Dead Season doesn't bring much in the way of new thinking to the zombie movie table. The dead are called "walkers" as on The Walking Dead. Some of the zombies here shuffle, while others run. No explanation is given for the zombie-apocalypse, as has become the style of these films. (I miss the living-dead movies of the 70s, where we learned that radiation and pesticides caused the dead to walk.) The military style in which Conrad runs the island is reminiscent of Romero's Day of the Dead. At first glance, Dead Season is just another run-of-the-mill direct-to-DVD horror movie.

However, Dead Season does do a few things to set itself away from the pack. I won't reveal the most interesting facet of the movie, but it involves an ironic turning of the tables which I don't recall ever seeing in a zombie movie. This doesn't necessarily make Dead Season a better film, but any original idea must be applauded. Also, the movie offers a unique tone for the genre. So many of these movies simply turn into fanboy rip-offs which revel in gore and silliness. Dead Season bears a decidedly serious tone. There is little levity here and the tragic situation which has befallen the survivors is often hammered home. As is common with the genre, we get an abundance of "man's inhumanity towards man" sub-plots, but they are handled with a certain degree of realism as brutality is balanced with some caring.

These elements show that some care went into the making of Dead Season, as does the fact that unique Puerto Rican locations were used, but in the end, there's not enough new here to truly separate the movie from the pack. The movie falls into the all-too familiar zombie movie pattern of shuffling along while focusing on human drama instead of the horror elements. In fact, the most interesting element here is the tagline on the DVD box -- "On this island, survival is on game". This is clearly meant to link the movie in the consumer's mind to Dead Island. I don't know if fans of that game will have any interest in this movie, but zombie-film completists should check it out to see the one truly unique twist.

Dead Season may be the first zombie movie where a cruise ship is part of the problem on DVD courtesy of Image Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain at times. There are no distinct defects from the source materials. The daytime scenes look especially good, as they are clear and crisp. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture is rarely soft and the movie rarely looks like a low-budget product. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely done, as they alert us to sounds happening off-screen. The surround sound effects arise during the opening escape and the finale, adding depth to the film. The effects could be more detailed, but they are adequate. There are a few subwoofer effects from gunfire.

The Dead Season DVD contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director/Co-writer Adam Deyoe, Producer/Editor Loren Semmens, Actor Scott Peat, and Director of Photography Jeffrey Peters. "The Making of Dead Season" (9 minutes) is made up of on-set footage showing the cast and crew at work on various scenes. There aren't any official interviews here, but some participants do comment to the camera. We also get a glimpse of the special effects makeup being applied. Essentially, this is just "fly on the wall" video which shows us how much it rained there. The DVD contains seven DELETED SCENES which run about 16 minutes. Much of this is taken back by an alternate opening scene which shows that Elvis and Tweeter were part of a larger group when they escaped the mainland. There is also a really long "home video" and I can't help buy wonder how this would have fit into the movie. We get a 6 minute reel of OUTTAKES. Finally, we have the TRAILER for Dead Season.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long