Review Date: October 10, 2010
Released by: Celebrity Video Distribution
Release date: 12/2/2008
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes
I have some good natured advice for the makers of this film, and in fact for everybody who has made a film like this. Folks, if you’re going to try to game the customer rating system at Amazon.com, you can’t just go around posting oodles of bogus five-star reviews with accounts you created just for the purposes of inflating your score. I bring this up because, while looking for the release date and MSRP for this disc on Amazon, I noticed that it (as of the date of this writing) had been reviewed eight times, and four of those reviews gave it five stars. One of the reviews gave it three stars, and the other three gave it one star. Somewhat of an unusual breakdown if you ask me. Several of the one-star reviews even pointed out the fact that the five-star reviews were probably bogus.
Really guys, it’s very noticeable what you’re doing, especially since the accounts you’ve created all seem to hail from the same state where you made your non-Hollywood non-epic. At the very least you should have gotten some of your friends in other states to write reviews for you.
Ahhhhh, spring break in Texas. Instead of using mommy and daddy’s credit card for tickets to Fort Lauderdale, a group of attractively multiethnic college students has decided to spend it at a lake in the quaint little town of Grapevine. Pretty coed Callie (Taylor Chadwell
) has brought along her cousin Tyler (Trey Caldwell
), who is getting over a nasty break-up. Also tagging along are Callie’s friend Ava (Chad Thomas
), Ava’s boyfriend Joe (Ryan Hicks
), another friend named Beth (Kelly Vallejo
) and her boyfriend Josh (Jimmy Savcedo
), ditsy blonde bombshell McKinzie (Lindsey Gardner
) and hunky dude Jeremy (Jeremy Schwab
). After the usual exposition where we meet all the characters and get a feel for their clichéd personalities, it’s off to the nearby lake for sex and drinking.
Of course, this being a horror movie, things don’t quite go as planned. Two local girls in bikinis approach Tyler by the lakefront and lure him off into the woods with the promise of kinky hijinks. Then, without warning, the poor fellow is suddenly hit with a taser and rendered unconscious. Callie goes looking for him and gets tasered as well, as do Beth and Josh when they sneak away for a little hanky-panky. The entire group – Jeremy, Joe, McKinzie and Ava all having been apparently tasered off screen - wakes up in a dark room where it becomes obvious that they are being held prisoner. And they’re not alone, as the entire room is filled with other spring breakers who also found themselves knocked out and abducted. One of the captured women warns them not to touch the food or drink being offered to them, and the men come up with a plan to escape by overpowering the security guards keeping watch over them. They manage to break out of the room they are being held in, only to realize that they are in the middle of a gigantic factory. With shotgun-wielding guards on their tails, how are they going to find a way out of the building? And what the heck is this place anyways?
Well, it seems that the town of Grapevine, Texas, has found a way out of the nation’s economic doldrums. The entire economy is based around the stealing of cars in an operation run by a jovial old man named Uncle Buddy (Charles Martin
), who is practically worshipped by his employees. Uncle Buddy’s henchmen kidnap out-of-towners partying at the lake and then impound their cars. The cars are then chopped up and sold at auto parts stores, and the victims are also chopped up, with their throats cut and their lifeless bodies ground up by machines. But with Callie and her friends now running loose in his factory, Uncle Buddy now has a big problem that he and his henchmen need to deal with before it’s back to business as usual...
First impressions count, even when they are misleading. The first impression that one gets from the cover of The Dead Don't Scream
is that it must be a typical micro budget slasher film, no doubt featuring a warped, sexually twisted psychopath, perhaps an escapee from a mental hospital or something along those lines. The first impression that one gets from watching the opening moments of the film itself is that it must have been made by reasonably competent people, at least by the standards of these ultra low budget indie films. Both impressions are wrong, but the undeniable fact is that one goes into this movie with expectations that are never met, both for good and for bad.
It is true that, from a technical standpoint, The Dead Don't Scream
looks and sounds much better than many other micro budget horror flicks. Filmed in Texas by a director named Richard Perrin, the high definition videography looks much slicker than we have come to expect from this type of movie, with decent lighting, adequate framing and (mostly) above average sound recording. It is clear that the filmmakers had access to decent equipment and had a crew who knew how to use it. But the slick video look is a deceiving measure of competence, as the visual atmosphere of the film lends itself neither to scares or suspense. But we as audience members forgive that because we're so used to watching low budget movies that look awful and lack visual interest that finding a production that only
lacks visual interest is seen as an improvement. Nonetheless, our admiration wears off as the film drags on and we start to realize that the technical polish is only hiding a very badly written, acted and edited movie. As one would expect from a production of this caliber, the performances veer from tolerable (Taylor Chadwell as the heroine) to bad (an actor named Rick Alan Rhoads as the local lawman) to painfully corny (Charles Martin as Uncle Buddy). Once our heroes overwhelm the guards and try to escape from the "factory" the editing becomes so choppy and confusing that some scenes have to be watched more than once.
The starting point for the plot of The Dead Don't Scream
- a town whose entire economy is based on the stealing and chop shopping of cars - promises something that's at least a little different from the kind of dreck that we're usually served up in these films. Documented cases in which municipalities have become dependent and on and protective of corrupt and illicit businesses even give it some basis in fact. But the story veers too often and switches tones too many times, going from serious horror or dramatic scenes to moments of farcical comedy. Towards the end the script mostly settles the question of what genre it is in favor of serious horror, but even that comes with a problem. If you want your movie to be taken seriously as horror the menace or threat needs to be credible, and the economics and logistics of Uncle Buddy's operation are questionable.
That chops shops are profitable is not in question; I know a man who ran one in New York City during the 70's and he made a tremendous amount of illicit money through it. But most chop shop busts by law enforcement tend to be small operations with a limited number of employees. The reason is that it's hard to steal enough cars and get away with it for a long enough period of time to sustain a huge operation like the one that Uncle Buddy runs. The film makes claims about just how much money some types of luxury cars bring in - $750,000 or more says one character when talking about a German vehicle he has acquired - which seem so inflated that they defy belief. Yet Uncle Buddy employs a seemingly endless number of guards and workers, who are all clearly being paid well. Can the stealing of cars, and the profitable disposal of their human owners (the bodies of the dead are eliminated in a way that also makes money), really pay to keep that level of infrastructure up and running? The number of cars stolen, and the number of dead bodies we see, is enormous, which opens up another question of how he has managed to avoid unwanted attention from law enforcement. The local sheriff turns out to be in his pocket, but even so, it seems like it's only a matter of time before the state police or the FBI start to realize that a huge number of people have disappeared without a trace in a very small geographic area.
Those logical problems aside, horror fans can at least take satisfaction in the fact that the film does make a reasonable attempt to deliver the macabre goods that we all expect from these movies. The obligatory nudity is included, but what’s more, there’s plenty of carnage on display, and the make-up FX is excellent for such a low budget production. Throats are slashed and faces are blown off with shotguns. None of it is a hundred percent convincing, but the special effects are quite good. Still, that’s really all the movie provides. At best The Dead Don’t Scream
will entertain enough to be an acceptable rental when you can’t find anything better to put in your Netflix queue.
The movie is presented in a progressive scan, 1.78:1 transfer that is enhanced for 16x9 displays. The film was shot in high definition using good quality cameras and a competent director of photography, thus it looks quite good on DVD. Colors are beautifully saturated and the image is very sharp and detailed. There is little video noise except in certain shots and blacks have a deep, true appearance. Shadow detail is good to excellent in most dark scenes, although compression artifacts can be seen at times. Overall this is a very nice presentation for a low budget movie.
Too bad the same sentiments don’t apply for the soundtrack. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix suffers from several problems. Dialogue is often mixed too low (or the music is mixed too high) and many of the shooting locations had terrible acoustics, which results in echo effects that obscure our ability to hear what the actors are saying.
Extras are not exactly plentiful here, but we do get a twelve minute “making-of” featurette with interviews and behind the scenes footage. In truth most of said interviews are pretty useless, but the featurette does have the benefit of focusing on the special makeup FX and its application, thus we get lots of interesting shots of molds being applied to faces and bodies. Bizarrely, the footage for the featurette appears to have been shot at 1.78:1 but (probably accidentally) squished to 2.35:1.
We also get a music video for the film’s theme song (which also is shown over the movie’s end credits) featuring a couple of very adolescent rappers belting out pedantic lyrics like “The dead don’t scream/Because they already dead” and a trailer.
The Dead Don’t Scream
is far from a perfect movie, but it is at least better than some of the other junk out there, including other horror films released by Celebrity Video Distribution. This DVD is above average in terms of quality and supplements and is attractively priced. I really wouldn’t recommend the movie, but at least the disc itself is a good deal.
Movie – C-
Image Quality – B+
Sound – C
Supplements – B-
- Running Time – 1 hour 28 minutes
- Not rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Stereo
- “Making-of” featurette
- Music video