Film review: The Dead Outside

September 15, 2009 by
Filed under: Film reviews 

tdo1Another twist on the zombie genre – a neurological pandemic has swept the United Kingdom, but those with the infection don’t die immediately, becoming increasingly incoherent, unstable and violent. The infection mutated, went airborne and the government’s so-called vaccine only slowed down the symptoms. The result: the infectious period was extended and the disease spread unnoticed and the virus wiped out most of the misinformed population. Six months later, and the landscape is littered with wandering psychopaths and scavenging survivors.

The Dead Outside has an overwhelming air of purposefully half-explained menace: the virus might still be airborne; touching the afflicted in any way might result in infection; the turned victims are after blood and attracted by noise, so living a quiet life becomes vital to survival. So what better place to be than in the Scottish borders? Sparsely populated, lots of space and plenty to eat if you find a suitably isolated farm and can grow your own. Which is exactly what Daniel does after his wife and child are infected. But he wakes up the next morning to find April peering down the barrel of a shotgun at him. Braehead is her family’s farm and she doesn’t exactly welcome strangers, not even healthy ones.

tdo2 The two put up with each other as they struggle to survive;  but there’s more to April than meets the eye. Why does she  spend nights outside the safety of the farmhouse on her  own, why does she shoot every infected person on sight,  burying them in the woods around the farm, and why hasn’t  she been infected by all this contact? When a third survivor  stumbles onto the farm, this fragile and untrusting dynamic  is threatened.

The Dead Outside shares the same main problem as The Zombie Diaries – a lack of turned plague victims, (in fact, if it were not for the differences in the disease and infected, these two films might almost be companion pieces), but Director Kerry Anne Mullaney’s choice of Dumfries and Galloway as a location tempers this accusation in two ways – naturally, there are less people here, and most impressively, the bleakness of the countryside is captured in the blues and blacks of the eerie dusk/night exterior shots, (when most of the action occurs). The area’s wet and dreary weather conditions, shown through deceptively simple, lingering shots of the farmyard, the surrounding fields and woods, and farm buildings going to ruin as nature reclaims them, more than makes up for the too-few, (but effectively savage), encounters with the infected.

Mullaney has crafted a rough-edged independent Post Apocalyptic gem: the dialogue is economical; the acting is convincing; the farmhouse’s rooms clogged full of a lifetime’s clutter constrict and suffocate those hiding within, eventually forcing them outside to face the truths behind April’s attachment to Braehead Farm.

tdo3The Dead Outside is a nervous and personal snapshot of the apocalypse, as the characters subtly probe each other’s motivations in an unforgiving, and tense environment. A is for Apocalypse, and Ambiguity, but also for Atmosphere and The Dead Outside literally drips with it.

Shot in two weeks, on a micro-budget, (the makers wouldn’t divulge the amount in their Frightfest Q&A session, due to the fact they’re trying to sell the film at the moment), The Dead Outside is a stylishly dark mood piece, and if The Zombie Diaries can do well in the straight-to-DVD market, The Dead Outside surely will, and deservedly so, as it is a prime example of thoughtful, twisted story-telling and aspirational independent film-making.

Hopefully we’ll be seeing The Dead Outside in cinemas or on DVD before too long. Check out the official trailer here.

The Dead Outside, 2008

Director: Kerry Anne Mullaney; Writers: Kerry Anne Mullaney and Kris R. Bird


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