Special Dead (2006) Review
Written by: skfan
Only in the realm of low budget straight to dvd horror films could you ever find something as politically incorrect and offensive as "Special Dead". Its worth mentioning off the bat that if you're easily offended epically by the exploitation of mentally challenged or handicapped people for the sake of humor and entertainment then this certainly isn't the type of film for you. On the other hand the chances of anyone on this site being easily offended is probably unlikely or you wouldn't be a horror fan. The unfortunate thing about "Special Dead" is that it isn't the brilliant over the top offensive horror comedy it thinks it is. In fact the film feels like someone had one joke and instead of trying to build on the idea and make it into a film he simple ran the one joke into the ground in a dragged out ninety minute excuse for a film. Its really a shame when you look at the potential the film had and with a tag line of "Sometimes heroes ride the short bus" how could the film not be complete trashy fun? The answer is incompetent direction throughout, terrible production values and painfully bad writing dragged this novel idea down into the dirt.
The story revolves around Camp Special Dude, a summer ranch for the mentally handicapped or "retards" as they're lovingly referred to in the film. The camp is run by a father and son duo with the help of some very horny counselors. On the first night that the new group of "special" guest arrive a zombie outbreak happens in the area. It turns out that the camp just so happens to be smack dab in the middle of zombie country. The only problem is the camp's bus isn't working. The only chance of surviving the night for the counselors and the campers is if they band together and fight the zombies. This all happens in the first twenty minutes or so of the film and up to that point the film is pretty fun. Its by no means good but its entertaining and fun which is exactly what you'd expect from a film like this.
Unfortunately this also seems to be around the time that the filmmakers ran out of story. I'm not exaggerating at all when I say that for the next hour or so nothing at all happens. If the film had kept the same pace it had in the first twenty minutes it would have been an enjoyable piece of trash but this film had one of the slowest and longest second acts I've ever witnessed. The film goes nowhere and really only has maybe forty minutes or so of actual substance but is dragged excruciatingly into a full length film. The final hour or so of the film excluding a couple of scenes near the end are nothing more then scene after scene of a couple zombies jumping out at our ever dwindling group of survivors, a quick fight with failed attempts at slapstick humor then repeated over and over again.
To pick out one or two weak points in the film is impossible because it failed on so many levels but certainly a big part of it's problem was the direction. It blows my mind that a film like this needed two directors (Thomas L. Phillips Sean Simmons) but somehow it did. Both filmmakers have gone on to do other low budget films and I haven't seen any of they're other works but based off of this film they both need a lot of improvement. The film is of course inconsistent, uneven, uncreative and poorly shot but normally I can usually put those things to the side. The biggest problem is their choice to use nothing more then natural lighting for almost the entire film. This too isn't always a problem in a low budget film but it is a little more of a concern when roughly ninety percent of the film is shot at night in dark woods. Its really downright painful to watch and bags the question to be asked, what were they thinking? I really don't understand how difficult it would have been for the crew to put up some lighting in some of the scenes. At times your not even sure what you watching because the film is so dark and the low grade digital camera simply becomes to grainy to even watch.
The Writing. Were do I start? Like I said earlier, the actual idea is original and is perfect for a crude horror comedy. Jared Tweedie also seems to have an understanding of what should be in a film like this and tries to throw in as much nudity as he possibly can into the script. He also has a couple of funny jokes up his sleeve like the campfire song near the beginning which is near comic brilliance even when the rest of the film isn't. He also does a good job of writing the black character into the film who seems to be the only one that has any humor left in him after the first twenty minutes. Tweedie runs out of material quickly though and its clear that he simply tried to just reuse the same two or three jokes over and over again to try and lengthen the running time. Not to mention I can never forgive someone who wrote a second half of a film that dragged on as much as this film did.
The acting was surprisingly one of the few bright spots in the film. Pretty much everyone in the cast did a good job epically the actors playing the "special" campers. The standout in the group was the young man that had the hots for a special little lady in a wheelchair that was also very excited about "Shark Week"! Another great performance came from Jah Shams as the token black character that somehow got mixed up with the criminal camp he was supposed to get sent too and Camp Special Dude.
As for gore and makeup effects on the zombies they were all right. Nothing special but for a film of this kind of budget it was passable. There wasn't really any gore though aside from the odd spray of blood and when there actually was any gore you could hardly see it because of the utter lack of lighting.
Overall I can't recommend this movie even with it's promising start. It's the type of film that you want to like and try hard to enjoy it but it lets you down with the lack of skill and production on the behalf of its' makers. If you do happen to come across a copy of this film watch the first half hour or so and once it becomes boring skip right to the last few minutes then stick around for a couple funny bits through the credits and just pretend the hour or so of nothing doesn't exist