Tuesday 16 February 2010

Deadlands 2: Trapped - Official DVD Review...

In 2006 a low budget indie zombie flick called Deadlands: The Rising was released. Originally intended to be a short, it expanded into a feature length home made undead action flick seated stylistically somewhere between Demons and Return of the Living Dead.

Put together over a long period of time, the film showed what could be accomplished with $10,000, a community spirit, and a stubborn determination. The lessons of feature independent filmmaking are written large across all aspects of Deadlands: The Rising (both positive and negative), and consequentially the 2008 follow-up Deadlands 2: Trapped, confidently brandishes the fact that lessons have been learned throughout its 85 minute running time.

The DVD cover art.

Taking place on the night that a new nerve gas is to be tested upon an unsuspecting Maryland city population, Deadlands 2 is clearly a product of the George W. Bush era when controversy, tribalism and distrust in your own government seeped into the American public’s psyche like never before.

Pushed by a soulless, dead-hearted project leader Dr. Robert Mitchell (played by Jim Krut, aka the helicopter zombie from Dawn of the Dead), any in-house dissent is quelled as the intended effects of the nerve gas are soon felt amongst the target populace. Unwittingly about to be caught up in a tragic disaster, Ugarek (editor/writer/director) takes his time to establish his protagonists, who are all played proficiently by a young cast, with Joseph D. Durbin (Sean) giving a particularly strong and believable performance.

Joseph D. Durbin's Sean receives a bad call.

Before they know it, six strangers find themselves trapped within a local movie theatre, surrounded by an army of zombies and with few options for rescue or escape, as one of them slowly suffers the effects of a bite from one of these … experiments.

The zombies in Ugarek’s undead action flick are different from the traditional Romero breed. For a start, these are runners, but not only that, they’re smart runners capable of working together to lay primitive traps and launch attacks on the living. Undeniably, the runner is a controversial figure in the zombie sub-genre – 28 Days/Weeks Later never featured zombies (rather infected humans), and the glossy-but-shallow Dawn of the Dead remake threw out subtle, creeping shamblers for the blunt-force trauma of sprinters – but Deadlands 2 stands above the negative connotations of this updated horror antagonist.

The gore - punchy and violent.

This flick has more going for it than running zombies; indeed the zombie action isn’t the primary focus of the script, instead it’s the characters and plot. Deadlands 2 is also an independent film, and similar to its predecessor, the sense of community spirit shines throughout. What’s more, on a budget of merely $6,000, Ugarek has done the hardest thing of all – make a good indie movie with a bigger scope (certainly bigger than normal indie fare) on less money than the original film.

The stuff of kid's nightmares alright.

All aspects of the filmmaking process – acting, writing, directing, shooting, editing, the lot – have come on leaps and bounds from the rough-edged learning curve of Deadlands: The Rising (also available on DVD). Looking, feeling and sounding a damn sight better than what you’d usually see in an indie flick; it’s clear that Deadlands 2, with its ‘deep shadows & brilliant highlights’ visuals, has been crafted with intelligence and endurance. What’s more the film is even prefaced by a short introduction from Helena: The Hussy of Horror, an internet horror hostess (www.hussyofhorror.com).

Helena: The Hussy of Horror

Compared to the work print (which I saw some time ago now), this final version of the film has a sure and more consistent pace, as well as a real sense of urgency and action whenever a shot of adrenaline is injected into the heart of the plot. What we are presented with is a kick arse zombie flick, with a truly independent spirit, and something a bit deeper going on inside its head. Zombie fans, indie film fans, and horror fans in general should really check this movie out – it’s an impressive step up in all respects.

Jim Krut revels in being this movie's evil bastard.

Finally – the DVD package itself – available to buy from Anthem Pictures (www.anthemdvd.com/store), you will be treated to an informative and revealing set of interviews with the director (who also provides a commentary track) and cast, as well as a look inside the scoring process, and how to put together a convincing on-screen military presence with an extremely low budget.

Watch the official trailer on YouTube.

Central Cast:
Dr. Robert Mitchell (Jim Krut)
Sean (Joseph D. Durbin)
Chris (Christopher L. Clark)
Jack (Josh Davidson)
Casey (Ashley Young)
Shelly (Corrine Brush)

Krystian Ramlogan

Gary Ugarek

Brian Wright
Gary Ugarek
Marq-Paul LaRose

Gary Ugarek
Chris Kiros
Elias Dancey

Gary Ugarek

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