Deadsight Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by RLJE Films
Directed by Jesse Thomas Cook
Written by Liv Collins and Kevin Revie
2018, 89 minutes, Not Rated
Released on July 2nd, 2019
Liv Collins as Mara Madigan
Adam Seybold as Ben Neilson
Ry Barrett as Gator
Jessica Vano as Sick Woman
There’s a truism that runs through the entire zombie horror genre, regardless of style or flavor: a good premise is great, but you need to go a little deeper in so thoroughly mined a territory. In short, zombie horror has seen in all, so not just any survival story will do. I really wish that Deadsight heeded that warning, because there’s a lot to work with here that ultimately goes nowhere (even by the standards of the Canadian countryside).
Ben Neilson (Adam Seybold; Hellmouth) comes to in the back of an abandoned ambulance on the side of the road next to a cemetery in rural Canada outside Toronto. He’s handcuffed to the gurney and mostly blind; bandages cover his eyes. The EMT’s are nowhere in sight (pun intended). After breaking free and radioing for help, he exits the ambulance and is beset upon by zombies. Pregnant police officer Mara Madigan (Liv Collins; Creep Nation) has heard his distress call and goes looking for him…only she’s carjacked by a woman in the last stages of the zombie flu (essentially a superflu that kills then turns you). The two eventually meet up at an old farmhouse, and their tale of survival on the road begins. With one blind and the other ready to drop a baby any minute, is there any hope for them?
Think back to the truism and warning from moments ago…
Here’s the thing: the premise is a damn good one, and in the event of a true zombie apocalypse you’d likely find some odd pairings and groups just like Ben and Mara. After all, life often puts you in some pretty effed up situations. Good horror, however, is built not only on the tension in a situation, but the bonds and arcs of the characters.
Ben and Mara have no story arc in Deadsight. While it is a true road tale, the film asks many questions that are never answered or (at least) explored further. Why is Ben in those handcuffs (no further explanation or even a clear answer)? Why doesn’t Mara (a police officer!) seem overly concerned about getting that answer? What’s her story (which is to say literally ANY part of it)? Furthermore, there’s never a true connection between the two established. The style and presentation are more thriller and less gory zombie madness, so there would have been real benefit to an extra few minutes of runtime to provide some humanity to tether you to the characters in what is, essentially, a two-person show.
Deadsight is made more frustrating by the fact that there’s a lot to like. The makeup FX are on point, especially in regards to those who are in the last stages of the zombie flu and can still communicate before turning. The setting (rural Canada) sets a tone of isolation that works strongly in the film’s favor. The premise builds a natural tension from the obvious danger of a blind man and a very pregnant woman surviving the end of the world.
The acting is all-around solid and utterly believable. The small cast does its job more than adequately; it’s just a shame that the writing doesn’t back up the performances. It’s almost as if they thought the premise was enough to carry it all. It could have been, but the zombie horror genre is deep – you need to bring more than just a concept. You have to make it original or at least establish that emotional link.
And that’s the damnable part: Deadsight did half the job.
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