Special Dead Review
Written by: jmh314
Sometimes the thing that makes a movie a great success are the things you think that would hold it back. With the new horror/comedy Special Dead, the political-incorrectness should be the thing to keep viewers away but really is the intrigue to this piece. Where Hollywood wouldn't dare go, indie-filmmakers go to with pleasure and Special Dead is no exception. Any film that is about zombies infesting a summer camp for mentally handicapped campers and having them fight back could only be done by gutsy indie-filmmakers like Thomas L Phillips and Sean Simmons. Special Dead delves into some very un-PC territory but still manages to be an enjoyable zombie romp. With a film like this you just have to take the rule book and throw it out the window, and sit back and enjoy it for what it is.
Special Dead's storyline isn't one that needs to be thought really hard about. The films title and logo alone set the impression for what you can expect in this film. It opens with two hikers running out of water. The male hiker hears water dripping from a doored area that was blocked off with trees. He decided to move the trees and go inside. He finds the water and drinks it, only to get infected and turn into a zombie and killing his other fellow hiker.
From here we are taken to Camp Special Dude, a summer camp for the mentally challenged. The camp is ran by "Snuff" Stone and has help from his son Mac and daughter Dale. Mac is a normal every day counselor who gets more than his fair share of ass from the female counselors and his sister Dale is mentally handicapped who doesn't like people touching her and is confound to a wheelchair. "Snuff" soon witnesses something harassing his cattle and he rounds up his son Mac to go look with him. While they are gone Snuff tells another counselor to round everyone up and get everyone inside if they witness anything strange.
Mac and Snuff are in the cattle pen when the cattle soon begin getting attacked by something. Turns out, there are zombies infesting the area and "Snuff" is an expert in this field. He states how he had to hunt zombies before and he knew he should have blown up that area with the water rather than just blocked it. Screams emanate from the camp and Mac and Snuff get back to witness that Camp Special Dude is now being invaded by zombies.
The plan is to escape via the Camp Special Dude bus but after realizing their bus is in the shop it's time to split up and kick some zombie ass. Snuff heads off on his own, while the others head out in a group. Armed with nunchucks, Mac does his best to lead the group to safety but the group soon gets separated. A small group is left with Mac and they include two female counselors fighting for his love and his sister and another fellow "special" camper. This group of misfits will need to find a way to fight their way through the night if they plan to stay alive and escape in the morning.
While the plot line is simplistic, it does enough to keep ones attention. It moves along fairly quickly and is packed with action throughout. However, I would have liked to see them build a little more to the plot. We only get a mention or two of a previous zombie invasion from Snuff and I would have liked to see that expanded upon what happened previously. Thats not to say this would have made a huge difference, but i think it would have added a little more depth to an otherwise straight-forward, in-your-face storyline.
One thing that I really did like about the film was the zombies. First of all, the characters in films refer to them as zombies throughout which many films don't. I like the fact that they don't try and believe they are anything other than zombies. I also liked that the zombies kept some of their human traits. For example one victim had Tourettes syndrome and once he became a zombie he still had little outbursts of swearing as he attacked people. Also one of the girls in love with Mac turned into a zombie and he was able to persuade her not to kill him by kissing her and telling her to be at his side. It was a fresh change as it gave all the zombies a little bit of their own personality and showed it just made them monsters and didn't change who they were completely.
The acting was pretty decent. The hardest thing to watch sometimes is a normal person try and play a mentally challenged person. Even some of the highest caliber Oscar-worthy actors cant pull it off, so don't expect anything spectacular. While Jason Brubaker who plays Mac has that cheesy-macho attitude down pat, the standout role is Larrs Jackson. Larrs plays Snuff Stone and get the coolest part and some of the coolest dialog to boot. How can you not like the old bad-ass cigar chomping zombie hunter when he has lines like "Ever ride a zombie horse before son? I have and it ain't no fun". I wish this film could have had a little more of Snuff in it because Larrs did an awesome job with his role.
The special effects seemed pretty good and the gore was nonstop. The zombies sometimes had some good skin hanging from their face but other than that were your average zombie makeup for the most part. There was plenty of blood throughout the film and did so in a variety of ways. They were definately a fan of blood splatter as there seems to be blood spraying everywhere, almost to an excessive point. Seeing as though this is a film not meant to be taken too seriously, the over the top blood spray wasn't a bad thing by any means.
The directing seemed good as everything flowed very well together. One thing that I think was sometimes a problem were scenes being too long. I don't know if it was a directing or editing decision, but there were a few times such as the nunchuck scene and the second sex scene that felt like the shots were just a little too played out. Otherwise it directing seemed to stay on point as the actors all seemed to know what was expected of them to keep the film flowing.
The one thing that really irked me at times was the cinematography. While most of it is pretty decent for a low budget indie film, some of the shots at night are just way too dark. There were a few times it was almost hard to make out what was going on or even see the gore because of the darkness. And to top it off, some of the really dark sequences had some sort of static-effect to it that made it harder to see and was a somewhat annoying. I don't know if this static look was from the lack of light or if it was an editing effect to try and make these dark shots more viewable, but it just didn't look clear at times and was kind of distracting.
Overall, Special Dead may not be the most visually stunning movie but it overcomes it's shortcomings by being a pretty fun zombie ride. There are some times where the un-politically correct humor doesn't quite come off but there are still enough decent laughs that help this film maintain it's entertainment factor. It moves along quickly and is filled to the brim with splattering blood and college style humor and nudity. So if its blood, zombies, sex, crazy characters, and a few laughs you are looking for then look no further than Special Dead. It is obvious the cast and crew had a good time filming this movie and I think most viewers will have fun too. Just let it be said you have to take the "handicap" aspect of this film with a grain of salt and understand it's for pure entertainment because at the end of the day thats what Special Dead does, entertains. It may not have what it takes to be truly "special" in the ranks of classic horror films, but it is an entertaining ride with an original premise that you may never see again. Definitely worth one viewing for the films premise alone.