They say you can't judge a book by its cover. This is especially true of horror DVDs and their cover art. Take the latest in a long line of lame Lionsgate titles - Dead and Gone. Looking at the front, we see the names of Quentin Jones, Zack Ward, and Kyle Gass. Underneath is a photoshop image of a gravestone with the film's name, and below that is a zombie-like woman struggling to come up out of the ground. Round off the picture with a quote emphasizing the film's "bloodiness" and you've got a ripe fright fest come on, right? Sadly, it's all a lie. Jones may be the lead, but Ward and Gass are nothing but mere cameos. Even worse, the film has little to do with the living dead. Instead, it's one of those psychological thrillers with a "betcha didn't see that coming" twist ending. And no matter what Dark Delicacies thinks, the amount of gore here is old school and minimal at best. Oh yeah, and the film sucks too.
Jack Wade has a big problem. Long the boy toy of a famous actress, he is now stuck with a comatose vegetable of a paramour thanks to a car accident. Taking the former Mary Garrett to a remote cabin in the woods in order to help her die (the better to get his hands on her insurance money), our hunky lothario runs into a bunch of local bumpkins - and a rather unsettling legend. Seems the house was built on some ancient burial grounds, and a previous owner murdered his entire family there. Now, Jack is starting to have visions. Mary appears to be up and around, taunting and harassing him. Even worse, the lines between reality and fantasy are blurring causing our hero to become paranoid...and potentially deadly. It is up to a female sheriff with an odd fixation with the situation to save the day.
There is nothing worse than a horror film that toys with your fear emotions. We fright fans are so desperate for something to hang our hats on that we will generally tolerate anything. That being said, the current crop of underperforming terror really does test one's patience - and nobody does it better than Lionsgate. While they recently vowed to get out of the direct to DVD fear mongering market, they continue to put out the stupid, scareless chum. Dead and Gone is just another illustration of "anything on aluminum" distribution. It feels like a Sci-Fi Channel reject, the kind of 'aren't we clever' concept that fails both in execution and interest. The notion of an already unstable man believing his soon to be late wife is speaking to him from beyond - literally - has been done a dozen times. That our half-assed hero becomes obsessed with the corpse conversations and starts killing as a result is also nothing new. But what director Yossi Sasson accomplished with writer Harry Shannon's crappy script is nothing short of amazing. The pair manages to make us question why this kind of plotting ever worked in the first place.
Context is everything in a horror film, and Dead and Gone has one of the worst set-ups ever. Without telling us anything significant, we are instantly thrust into a narrative involving a possible gigolo turned maybe failed actor who wants to pull the plug on his might be terminal, could be comatose spouse. She perhaps was a famous movie star who seemingly squandered all their money on drugs, debauchery, and health care, and this is supposedly the reason Jack had turned hermit. Eventually, some of these glaring storyline blanks are filled in (thanks in no small part to former Sleepaway Camp star Felissa Rose, in full exposition mode), but even with the backstory, we're still lost. That's because Dead and Gone is holding its last narrative card for a final "shocking" reveal. That it limps instead of enlightens argues for the stupidity of the surprise overall. Tag on the constant bickering between our hero and his quasi-cognizant honey and it's enough to make you swear off of scary movies forever.
But the worst aspects of Dead and Gone remain the unnecessary attempts at novelty. Not only is our local delivery boy a white trash bumpkin (who likes to steal from his customers), but his brother is a certified hillbilly rapist of the Deliverance variety. When we meet the local law, it turns out to be a redheaded bimbette who is so hot to trot that she shirks her sheriff duties to constantly get in Jack's sweaty pants. As for the apparitions, there's a one note nurse who returns from the grave to - get this - complain about a bounced check (seriously), while the former superstar is all chain-smoking sarcasm and putdowns. Are you scared yet? When we do get to the axe-wielding vivisection, Sasson goes for old school physical effects. On the plus side, it's more than intriguing. No CGI silliness here. On the down side, whoever created these setpieces needs to contact the Dick Smith School of Makeup and get their deposit back. They're decent, but not very impressive. It's too bad that Dead and Gone couldn't live up to its potential and promises. Of course, it probably never intended to in the first place. Or it could be that it just never had any.
Offered in a clean, crisp 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image, this film has the look of a basic cable thriller. The camera stays cornered in medium shot selections, and the occasional odd angles look obvious in their ersatz inventiveness. Sasson shows skill as a feature filmmaker, and his attention to detail is commendable. But overall, this scary movie look like it was intended for DVD all along.
Since Dead and Gone plays with the perspective between what is real and what is nightmare, you'd expect the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix to take advantage of such available mood and atmosphere. Oddly enough, the aural attributes here are rather flat. The ethereal voices Jack hears do resonate off the back channels, but for the most part, everything is up front and dimensionless.
Nothing like a backslapping commentary to get your added content off on the right (or in this case, wrong) foot. Sasson and Shannon are up for a full length discussion of their film, and while they do explain some of the failed ambitions within Dead and Gone, they are really proud of the final product. Of course, they would be. Elsewhere in the bonus features, we are treated to an interesting Making-of, a selection of unnecessary deleted scenes, and a few fun outtakes. Toss in your typical trailer gallery and you've got a nice selection of extras. Sadly, this is the kind of movie that doesn't deserve them.
As mentioned before, in a recent announcement, Lionsgate suits stated that the company would be moving away from "genre" releases and concentrating on more mainstream fare. While we horror fans should be weeping over such a statement, the truth is, if such a strategy means they'll be less lameness like Dead and Gone in the macabre marketplace, it's actually a reason to rejoice. Earning an easy Skip It, only the most bored adolescent with a morbid scary movie fascination will find this dread digestible. Otherwise, this is just another case of blatantly false advertising selling something to the fanbase that they'd otherwise avoid all together. Dead and Gone is not some manner of zombie epic. Instead, it's the standard psychological ipecac.
Want more Gibron Goodness?
Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here