DVD Review: Dead 7 (R18+) (USA, 2016) is no Walking Dead – but there are boy bands!

Apparently we live in a world where members of boybands decide that writing and starring in a post-apocalyptic zombie filled cowboy shoot-em-up Western is a good idea. Initially when I saw the trailer for this film I had a little optimism that it could be one of those “so bad it’s almost good” type of films. You know the ones, like Sharknado, or Megashark VS Giant Octopus, or Snakes On A Plane. Considering this was a film funded by SyFy it’s easy to have some tentative, positive reservations. But what little hope I had for this film was dashed pretty quickly. Spoilers ahead because it would be impossible to discuss how terribad this film is without giving stuff away.

Dead 7 is a post-apocalyptic zombie-riddled Western set in a couple of forgettable towns with a lot of forgettable side characters. In order to try and stop the zombies a group of some of the best gun slingers and fighters must defeat Apocalypta (Debra Wilson) who has been controlling and ordering the zombies to destroy the towns in her path. Led by the reclusive and quiet Jack (Nick Carter) and his brother Billy (Jeff Timmons), they recruit a rag-tag bunch of fighters to try and defeat Apocalypta and kill as many zombies as they can along the way.

Now with the good B-grade films, there’s a feeling of self-awareness that lets the viewer know that those who made this film weren’t taking themselves too seriously. And with Dead 7, there really isn’t any of that. The opening and closing monologues make it obvious that story writer/actor Nick Carter was hoping for something with some substance, but he never achieves it. The story itself has potential, the idea of rounding up a bunch of the best gun slinging zombie killers to try and defeat the crazy witch-like Apocalypta and the hordes of zombies almost works. But the overall plot arc and pacing is drearily slow to unfold and the story itself is thin and has no significant pay off at the end. And I’m pretty convinced that they spent most of their budget on all the visual effects because for a production out of SyFy they’ve done a bang up job on zombie death scenes. They may not have the quantity that The Walking Dead does, but they sure have some gruesome onscreen visuals, hence the R18+ rating I suppose.

Generally with these B-grade type films it’s be expected that the characters be also thin. With almost no backstory given for any of them or explanation as to how they ended up in the scenarios they did. So we’re not really given a reason to care about any of them, which makes it all the more boring when each of our Dead 7 ends up ….well….dead. And Apocalypta, who is supposed to be sort of mystical and able to “control” the zombies, well her ironic death in the closing moments of the film just feels hollow and unearned. The fact that you come away not caring about the deaths of any of the characters proves that there’s no real emotional investment here.

The dialogue in this film flits between being overly serious to comical, to politically incorrect and the delivery sometimes feels forced depending on which actor it is. The only actor who looks like they’re even getting into character is Joey Fatone playing the constantly drunk rabble rouser Whiskey Joe. His comedic timing and delivery is pretty good, and he clearly enjoys playing the way-too-talkative Joe. On the opposite scale is Lauren Kitt Carter who plays Sirene, some sort of Native American type who has managed to kill loads of zombies and not end up zombie chow, despite only having some knives for weapons. Her entire character is so wooden she may as well have been a tree. Also if you’re going to have a member of 98 Degrees show up, it has to be Nick Lahey, instead we’re saddled with Jeff Timmons playing Nick Carter’s brother. Surely Nick could have eat least roped his own brother Aaron into this? And was O-Town ever relevant as a boyband? I’m amazed that the supporting cast has as many added boyband performers as it does. Not to mention random cameo by Everclear dude Art Alexakis, what even?

The editing in this film is horrid and choppy, as we jump from location to location with hardly a segue for context or explanation. To add to that they drop in noisy “chapter” title cards like we’re reading a book, except we’re watching a movie. Each of these cards explain in some vague or not so vague terms what will happen in the next section of the film, so it almost seems pointless to keep watching. Then there’s also all the plotholes, like the fact they talk about wasting ammunition, and yet never seem to run out of bullets. Or that it takes them 2 days to get up the mountain to try and find Apocalypta, only to somehow be back at the bottom of it in less than 10 minutes. I don’t mind holes in logic, but not holes in the film’s own continuity or storytelling. Surely these are all things that director Danny Roew should have picked up on.

Sometimes you get to watch a movie that is so self-aware and tacky that it ends up being funny and enjoyable. Dead 7 is sadly not one of those films. It’s the sort of film you regret wasting your time watching. You’d be better off spending your time watching reruns of The Walking Dead or educating yourself on best weapons to kill zombies by watching the Mythbusters Zombie special.

Review Score: ONE STAR (OUT OF FIVE)

Dead 7 is available on DVD through Universal Home Entertainment from 11th August 2016

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