Written & Directed by: Reese Eveneshen
The advent of affordable digital photography equipment and high quality editing software has changed the way independent filmmakers ply their trade. Production costs have plummeted since the days of immense Betacams and costly editing machines, leaving more money to spend on actors, sets, effects, script editors, coherent plots, likeable characters and lots and lots of zombies. Right? Well apparently not as Dead Genesisdirector Reese Eveneshen has given us a great looking, high def film that is missing most of these elements.
We start out with the beginning of a typical zombie outbreak. A professor who either had something to do with the outbreak or “warned us all!” about the impending zombie plague delivers a confusing, rambling speech before slitting his own throat with an exacto knife. And this, dear readers, is the most gore we see for quite some time. Following the speech, the passage of time is shown in an awkward sequence of “Two Weeks Later”, “Four Months Later”, “Two Days Later” title cards framing the nearly zombie-less apocalypse and bringing us up to speed. Eventually we encounter our heroine, Jillian Hurst a “former news writer and amateur documentarian”. She is preparing to make a pro-“War on Dead” propaganda film to garner public support (There is a brief attempt made to demonstrate that support might be necessary with the mention of zombie rights activists but this idea is passed off as a joke and never revisited) and sets out to film a few days in the life of the “deadheads”, an elite zombie killing force identified by their grim attitudes and homemade “DH” patches on their clothing. Jillian conducts her interviews and…not much else, unfortunately.
The “deadheads” (an awful choice of name for a group of zombie hunters, although the kids who made this movie may not be quite old enough to know who Jerry Garcia is) are possibly the least convincing part of this film. This mashup of cliche character types (tough girl, good ol’ boy with wife and kids at home, quiet religious guy who goes crazy later, etc.) is not in the least bit dirty or battle worn, despite spending “weeks at a time” fighting the undead. The only thing that gives them away as soldier types at all are a couple of camouflage hats and their guns. With their fashionable “Roots” backpacks and khakis, they looked more like university sophomores. The sad part of all this is that there are some really good actors in the group who could have made a better movie if they weren’t spending their time chewing on unwieldy, unnatural dialogue (writer/directors take note: have someone edit your work, you may not be as clever as you think you are).
At this point I’m sure you’re wondering “okay, what about the zombies?” Yeah, me too. I think this is the first zombie film where the number of characters outnumbers the zombies. I’m being facetious of course, but only slightly. There are no shambling hordes, no waves of walking corpses and none of the armies of the undead that have apparently all but taken over. Zombie encounters are brief, minimal and don’t even involve original kills. The zombie makeup is pretty good for the most part although shooting in digital enhances the “fakeness”. I think the makers were so caught up in their misguided attempts at social commentary that they forgot that zombies=horror movie=supposed to be scary. And come on guys, CG headshots? Really? Just because Uncle George does it now, that doesn’t make it OK. He’s paid his dues, you haven’t even applied for membership.
Dead Genesis looks and sounds great (albeit with some slightly intrusive canned ambient “forest sounds”) and features some really excellent acting. But that’s it. Any idea of a coherent film was lost long ago when the story was replaced with a collection of “you know what would be awesome?” scenes and more talking heads than a West Wing marathon. Nothing really happens that you weren’t expecting and the less said about zombie prostitution the better. With everyone and their brother making a zombie film these days, there is no excuse when putting out a bad one. Better toys and better actors does not mean better movie, you only have to look at the work of Todd Sheets, Brian Paulin and Brian Clement to see how good cheap zombie movie making can be. At the screening, director Reese Eveneshen made an allusion to Romero’s zombie films as a “recipe for great apple pie” and how everyone else is making apple pie but not following the recipe. Well Reese, you followed the recipe but you forgot one thing: the apples.