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RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
- Feature Commentary
- Slide Show
- Home Movies?
A black and white zombie picture where the only dialogue is the grunts the infected make. Oh, and it’s from the POV of the zombies instead of the survivors. And boring.
Directed by Julian Grant. Acted by Brian Shaw, Kathleen Lawlor, Alden Moore, Graham Jenkins, Angela Zagone and introducing Roger as The Baby.
A group of zombies are living together in the woods in a post-apocalyptic future made up of a heavy military presence and the occasional stack of bio-hazardous body bags. The zombie dad forages while the pregnant wife, the son and daughter snap at each other and fight over strips of flesh. The thing that’s strange is that they aren’t really zombies. They look like zombies and sound like zombies and eat human flesh like zombies, but they drink water and liquor (which makes them puke if they drink too much) and use logic every once and a while to solve problems. I suppose “infected” might be a better term to describe them even though they look like the classic Romero zombie. Anyway, everyone but the Father in the Swiss Family Dead-As-Fuck eats on a body found in one of the bio-hazard body bags and dies a horrible, bio-hazardy death. The understandably upset Father follows the logical path and cuts the baby out of his dead undead bride with a butcher’s hook and carries it around while hiding from military hit squads and roving bands of other zombies. Will Papa Zombie protect his little mutant baby or will the disparate elements prove to be too much for for this little nuclear (irradiated) family?
If it’s all right with you all, I’m going to call the characters in this film zombies, even though they’re more likely just brain damaged cannibals or insane, toxic waste infected survivors of a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Being as this movie isn’t interesting enough for me to write all that cumbersome shit out, zombies they shall be. I hate to mislead you, but I figure this little tangent might explain my train of thought. As much as that is possible.
-Done Clarifying Shit-
I really wanted to give this film a pass because of how many interesting things it tries, but it’s just not enough to have some cool ideas without any sort of plot to hang it on. Once the Father (whose character name in the credits is listed as Yar, although I don’t remember anyone calling him that. Or speaking), cuts out his little zombie baby, the remainder of the film is just him walking through the blasted landscape, falling down, puking, falling down and puking, growling and hiding. He saves a non-zombie woman from some redneck zombie men and (either out of gratitude or fear or loneliness) she carries the baby for the rest of the film. I looked for “Apprentice Baby Carrier” in the end credits but only saw other words. Seriously though, that’s the whole movie. Walking, growling, grunting, falling, puking and hiding. I’ve loved films with that exact same plot (The Road comes to mind), but there’s nothing of interest in between all that crap to keep you awake, let alone interested.
The biggest chance this film takes is to be dialogue free. All of the communication in this film is done through non-verbal communication skills like pointing, grunting and even grunt-pointing. In theory, this should make for a very interesting and original zombie picture, but in practice it’s excruciatingly boring, even if you normally don’t get bored by post-apocalyptic zombie tales (or brain dead cannibal tales, like this one is). If you’re going to do what is basically a silent film, there needs to be a reason for that gimmick to exist in the story. Memento was told in a non-linear fashion so we could experience Leonard’s confusion with him (not just because it was a cool storytelling device), thus making a character that should have just been a blank slate into someone deriving genuine empathy from the viewer.
The Defiled doesn’t use the dialogue free gimmick to tell a story about the loss of communication between people in our ever more isolated societies, rather it just tries to tell the simple story of a zombie man, a human woman in shock and a mewling cannibal baby. But the film doesn’t have interesting enough scenarios to place our characters in for their inability to communicate to be anything more than a mild inconvenience (compared to hiding from military death squads and roving bands of cannibals). If the film had moved at a brisker pace and didn’t feel so repetitive, then the wordless conceit might have been something more than just an interesting idea but, as it stands, the 100 minutes of this film felt endless and I fell asleep countless times. I can handle slow movies (I’m looking at you, The White Ribbon), but this truly felt like watching whatever is slower than paint do something slower than drying.
My other big issue with the film is the black and white photography. Having just watched Eraserhead for my column, I had a very recent taste of black and white done exquisitely. The problem with The Defiled is that it looks like the film was converted to black and white during post production or was shot through a cheap color desaturation filter, leaving the entire film to look blue more than gray. It reminded me of that Skeet Ulrich movie Soul Assassin from 2001. Every second of that fucker was blue. If The Defiled had been shot in actual black and white it might have added enough stylishness to the picture to compensate for the dragging narrative, but instead it looks like cerulean blue crayon took a shit on the lens and went home.
The lead performance by Brian Shaw is the one saving grace. In the hands of a lesser actor, the film would have been unbearable to sit through and I probably would have turned it off and asked for a mulligan. Shaw manages to convey the isolation and despair of the Father just through facial expressions, ticks and the occasional grunt or growl. He carries every frame of the film in an incredibly physical performance that must have been extraordinarily taxing to carry out, especially under fairly extensive facial makeup. He is by far the MVP of the production and I hope to see Mr. Shaw get to play something a little more rewarding in the future because he definitely deserves better.
There’s just not enough here to warrant a recommendation. I’m a massive (read: obsessive) fan of zombie films in general and I feel bad that they are starting to get such a backlash, so anything that tries to revitalize the genre by doing something different is welcome in my book. But this… this just isn’t it. It has a great concept, a wonderful lead performance and a few interesting shots, but the script and some of the acting are just so half-baked that I just ended up feeling sorry for the film instead of enjoying it. You know as well as I do that a new direct to DVD zombie movie comes out almost every week and a film has to be tricky with how it distinguishes itself from the pack, but if it’s only distinction is surface level, then it has no place in the pantheon of zombie classics. It belongs in a dollar bin at Best Buy, just like the rest.
Thankfully, there wasn’t too much to have to sit through. There’s a commentary that I didn’t watch\listen to that I’m sure is very informative, but I love myself and have better things to do like sitting in a dark room in silence. There’s also a trailer for the film that I watched in order to see how they marketed the film and it does manage to make it look like a modern riff on Night of the Living Dead. Good for them. There’s a slideshow made up of still frames of the movie that also make the experience look better than it is. Double good. Finally, there’s a special feature labelled “Home Movie” which is neither special nor a feature as it is just a minute and a half of two actors dying from poison and self inflicted razor cuts, respectively. I think it might have been a camera or make up test. Either way, I’m going home.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars