Siege of the Dead (2001)
I hear it all the time. Many fans out there are tired of zombies
that run, jump, or who can beat them at a game of Scrabble.
Personally, I'm not. I'm always game for new ideas being
injected into the undead lore, yet there's still nothing
like the dim-witted, lethargic limpers born of Romero. Siege
of the Dead is an independent effort from Georgia that
aims to recreate just a tiny slice of that Romero magic,
and in a lot of ways hits the mark. It's one small group's
story of survival, but you can imagine that at the same
moment, many other similar versions of this story are happening
across the nation, or even spreading across the world.
While Siege of the Dead doesn't claim to take place
inside the confines of Romero's zombified universe, you
could easily place it at some point after the events of
Dawn of the Dead. The risen dead are the traditional
fare, devoid of intelligence, very slow-of-foot, and easily
destroyed by blunt trauma to the head or a well-placed bullet
in the brain. No surprises with these corpses.
At the outset of the film, all we know are the basics. The
dead have risen and they've been strolling around town eating
people and generally stinking up the joint. We're told that
through some narration as we watch Lloyd Dobbler (Doug LaVigne),
a survivor in the aftermath, lug around his backpack full
of supplies (and handy baseball bat) along a deserted country
road. As he takes some time out to rest and jot down some
thoughts in his journal, his desire to find some transportation
is met when Lane (Joshua Spearing) and Jennifer Myer (Maggie
Andrichak) make a "timely" arrival in their car. Unfortunately
for Lloyd though, his potential ride is now out of gas.
The good news though, is that Lane and Jennifer agree to
join him on his trek to his friend's place in the countryside,
where supplies are supposed to be plentiful.
A really long walk and a few zombies later, the three companions
reach their destination. Friends Martin (D.W. Beck) and
Gib (Kurt Zettlemoyer) are holed up in a house-turned-armory
that has up till now given them respite from the death outside.
Though, given the growing undead siege upon the house and
the dwindling supplies, it's apparent a new plan of action
must be conceived.
Their consensus is that traveling north is their best chance.
It's thought that the as temperatures grow colder the farther
north they go, the zombies would eventually freeze solid
since they no longer produce any body heat. Ha! What a ridiculous
idea, I mean whoever...waitaminute...you know, that actually
makes some sense. Sure, there would be other concerns about
the cold, but it's not a bad idea at all. Zombie flicks
aren't usually renowned for their logic, so it's not surprising
that I was a little thrown off there for a second.
The entire second
half of Siege centers on the group's search for more
supplies for the trip northward. This is where most of the
film's action takes place and also where everything falls
apart for the group. The best laid plans of mice and men
oft go astray, and this story is no exception.
Siege of the Dead works for me because of its simplicity.
The movie never gets bogged down in too many details and
never attempts to explain the zombie phenomenon. Nor do
the characters digress into bloated philosophical discussions
on why this has happened or how they're going to rebuild
civilization. They're only interested in one thing.staying
alive as long as possible. There's not a ton of character
development and no one personality stood out for me, but
they're still a sympathetic lot. They all come off as the
"average Joe", which isn't a knock on them. It's actually
a plus because it's easy to relate. We may not know a lot
about them, but you want to see them all succeed.
While the story itself is tightly spun, Kurt Zettlemoyer's
script is merely average. It isn't helped by the fact that
the actors' line delivery left a lot to be desired. I think
that Zettlemoyer, who also pulled acting duties, did the
best job playing Gib. Since he's credited with the screenplay,
it makes sense that he probably had the best grasp on the
material. Joshua Spearing was given the toughest task in
playing Lane, who had the only real emotional scenes in
the movie and they just didn't come out very well. Overall
though, considering that these guys (and gal) had no formal
training, you gotta cut 'em a break. It could have been
much, much worse, and frankly, I've seen much worse.
When you combine a shoestring budget with a total lack of
experience in filmmaking, you can't expect perfection. And
even with its flaws, I thought that the good outweighed
the bad. Director Chris Kaylor does a decent job behind
the camera, despite a few annoying "shaky cam" moments.
Exploding zombie heads, gunfire, and blood spatters were
among the digital FX shots that came out surprisingly well
and honestly, I was surprised to see any in the film at
all. Another nice touch was the dream sequence that they
included. Those can sometimes come off as cheesy even in
big-budget stuff, but they did a great job, it plays very
well in the movie. The music was a plus, wasn't overdone,
and truthfully I wouldn't have minded a little more. The
zombie makeup was sufficient, but the real props go the
props (ha!) in the film. The bevy of M-16s, handguns, shotguns,
and ammo boxes rounding out the group's arsenal is quite
In making an independent film (or any film for that matter),
you have to know your limitations. Among other things, your
budget, resources, and the acting abilities of your cast
all have to be taken into account. Too many times you watch
a film that tries to be more than it can be, or even needs
to be. Siege of the Dead focuses on the high-powered
zombie action and stays within its limits, and ultimately
avoids many traps that usually sink a first attempt at making
a film. I only wish it had been a little longer. It runs
only 54 minutes in length. To their credit though, at least
they didn't add a bunch of fluff as useless filler time.
Another downer was the quality of the digital video. It
wasn't the best, and had they the money to use film I think
it would have made a huge difference.
The bottom line is that Siege impresses despite its
amateur look. The film doesn't provide any real "scares"
per say, but there are several scenes that stand out in
my mind as exceptional filmmaking. Siege of the Dead
far exceeds what you would normally expect in a low-budget
|DEAD KEV'S ADVICE
|Despite its flaws, it makes for an interesting and
empathetic tale of survival. Certainly recommendable,
especially if you're a fan of independent horror.
Casual fans might be put off a little due to the ultra
low-budget feel of it.
|1. Gunshots attract smelly walking corpses.
2. Never trust someone who's just lost a loved one to watch your back.
|-"You didn't exactly look like Mother Teresa coming
at me with that tire iron."
-"I had to shoot my mother in the head."
-"What a snafu."
-"Let's drag that thing outta there before it ruins those seat covers."
|Chris Kaylor [story]
|Doug LaVigne [story]
|Brian Stone [story]
||Walter "Gib" Gibson
|COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
|The final cut of the film was completed on July
|Every person who worked on the movie also played
a zombie or two...or three.
|The bludgeonings' FX shots were accomplished by
using watermelons, tomatoes, cookies, and an archaic
form of digital compositing. The biting FX shots were
done with either ramen noodles, chunks of turkey,
or a piece of an old t-shirt soaked with stage blood.
|No live ammunition or functional firearms were used
in the filming of Siege of the Dead. No blank
ammunition ("blanks") was used either. All the firing
effects were added digitally in post-production. Nearly
all firearms used were non-firing prop items. Any
real firearms used were completely disabled through
the removal of firing pins and internal parts.
|Most of the music was written and performed by actor/co-producer
Doug LaVigne's former band, 'Big John Trail and the
Linda Lovelace Experience'.
|Siege of the Dead was filmed in and around
|Lead Rain Entertainment is comprised of Chris Kaylor,
Doug LaVigne, and Kurt Zettlemoyer.
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