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November 11, 2014

Movie Review: Dead Within (2014)

“You do what you gotta do for your family.”

That line, right there, tells me that this is going to get ugly. Predictable, but ugly.

Dead Within is about Kim and Mike. They are the only two people, that they know of, who have survived some kind of viral outbreak. After boarding themselves up in a remote cabin for six months, they are running low on food. Every day Mike goes out into the infected world, leaving Kim behind, and comes back with fewer supplies than the day before.

As their situation becomes desperate, Kim still hangs on to some shred of hope that there are others out there, survivors like them. She continually tries a walkie talkie, calling out each day, but without success. And each day, Kim seems to become more and more disconnected with reality. Is it the stress? The lack of food? Survivor’s guilt?

One day, Mike realizes he has to travel further than ever before. He plans to come back but having to avoid the infected and/or fight them off (as well as animals - they’ve been infected, too) he doesn’t return until the next morning. But as he’s forgotten the secret knock that he and Kim created for his return, she can’t trust him enough to let him back in. How can she know it’s really him? How can she trust anyone anymore?

I don’t want to go into too much more detail than that. Aside from the fact that there isn’t much more to the movie, there is a twist or turn here and there and I don’t want to spoil it for any of you. Not that you can’t figure it out on your own about halfway through but I shan't deny you such a triumph.

The writers wanted to create a very isolationist vibe here. Two people stuck in a one room cabin out in the middle of the woods in the middle of a nationwide, if not worldwide, epidemic. Close quarters, low supplies, haunted pasts (because of what they had to do to survive) that they can’t escape. It’s not even so much about a claustrophobic atmosphere as it is hopelessness.

For only $9.99 you get these two amazing blades! (paranoid delusions sold separately)
I almost expected them both to turn on each other but what I got instead was Kim’s slow descent into madness. The element of ‘keep the audience guessing’ was in full force. Was Kim sick? Malnourished? Was her husband even there? By the end of the film I found myself questioning each theory I thought was the correct one. The end of the film does offer us a ‘surprise’ (not really) and partial answers to my questions.

Dean Chekvala (True Blood, Harper’s Island) and Amy Cale Peterson (I’ve never seen her in anything else) carried the whole movie. With that kind of pressure, it’s easy for a film to fail. But the writers developed the characters well, giving us just enough of a glimpse into their pasts, to make us care about their ordeal. It didn’t hurt that Dean and Amy were brilliant actors. There are two very short but very brutal scenes about what happened to their baby girl that made me gasp and bite down on my knuckles. 

No, no, no. It's business UP FRONT and all party IN THE BACK.
People might think the story itself is original because the outbreak doesn’t involve zombies or Ebola. Anyone who has read “Hater” by David Moody, however, will definitely see a blatant similarity at work here. I don’t remember if his virus affected the family dog though (*sad trombone*). So that dampened the mood for me a bit. And I did figure out the ending about halfway through. For me that’s a downer because, as I’ve said many times, I’m pretty stupid at noodling out the truth so when I can...I’m not mad, just disappointed.

Save for those few things I didn’t like, the movie turned out much better than I’d hoped.

3 Hatchets (out of 5)

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