The seemingly endless torrent of direct-to-disc zombie films continues unabated, and Dead Season is one of the latest horrors to make its way to the DVD players of horror fans looking for diamonds in the rough. On the one hand, Dead Season doesn’t really offer anything that die-hard genre fans haven’t seen before. On the other hand, it’s got some pretty solid practical effects, which are refreshing given that CGI blood is increasingly the norm.
As Dead Season opens, former paramedic Elvis (Scott Peat) and Tweeter (Marissa Merrill) are communicating via radio and explaining how they came to be where they currently are one year after the onset of the zombie apocalypse. Tweeter makes her way to Elvis’s home, and they form a tentative alliance. Elvis has plans to head to Florida where a former boss is surviving by setting up boats for people to take off the mainland, and with little other choice, Tweeter joins him. Once they reach an island, they discover that it is just as overrun with “walkers” as anywhere else.
In addition to the living dead, the island is occupied by a small group of humans who are holed up in a compound and who scout out the island’s beaches for supplies to scavenge. These survivors are led by Kurt Conrad (James C. Burns), who appears to be former military and who keeps his 17-year-old daughter Rachel (Corsica Wilson) locked up in her room all the time. Elvis proves useful to the community for his medical experience and Tweeter turns out to be an effective zombie killer, but when Elvis learns an unsettling truth about the small colony’s survival, Tweeter urges him to help her rescue Rachel and flee the island.
Technically, Dead Season is much better than many independent zombie films that have been released over the last few years. The practical effects are gruesome and mostly effective, and the filmmakers are to be applauded for going the practical route over cheap CGI even if most of the zombie makeup isn’t quite on par with the rest of the effects. Unfortunately, those effects are really the only thing that stands out about Dead Season. Its characters are barely defined, which is especially a problem with Elvis and Tweeter. They should be the emotional core of the film, but the audience isn’t given much time with them to make a connection, and their relationship doesn’t make much sense. The island survivors are so samey that at least one of their names is not revealed until after he’s dead, and some of the zombies are so lightly made up that it’s often difficult to tell who’s dead and who isn’t in some of the action scenes. Without any characters to care about, there are no emotional stakes, which makes Dead Season feel almost more like an effects reel than a fully realized feature.
Image Entertainment released Dead Season on DVD on 30 July 2012. Special features include a commentary track, deleted scenes, outtakes, trailer and a “making of” featurette.