Dead in the Water
by Barry Meyer
Not really all that alive on the screen, either.
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There’s a scare ploy that has become all too common (but not as common as the leaping cat) in the modern horror flick, which is the prophetic whack job who (a) runs out of the woods shaking a severed eyeball, warning the kids in the car that they’re driving towards imminent bloody mayhem; (b) steps out ominously from behind a door/bush/thin air to deliver a similar message; (c) grabs the hand of an unsuspecting kid and scares the crap outa them with warnings of doom. In Dead in the Water, a new breed of prophetic crazy is introduced…one who, actually, turns out not to be all that crazy, but more of a fanatical zealot.
Two sisters, the virginal Jennica (Megan Renee Burgess) and her free spirited sibling, Tiffany (Alissa Bailey), head to a cabin in the woods to spend the weekend with their parents. In tow is Tiffany’s latest conquest, Joseph (Mike Parrish), a minister’s son, and Jennica’s chaste-enduring steady, Mike (Bill Zasadil). Before the gang can get too far along the remote, wooded road, they’re accosted by lady who runs out from the trees. She may seem like the prophetic crazy from the other flicks, but actually she’s more an over enthusiastic environmentalist who really needs to hand out her pamphlets to the kids. And in place of warnings of certain death, she advises the kids that the lake ahead is polluted from industrial waste (what industry was allowed to build in the deep woods is not explained). The only thing crazy about this lady is the fact that she picked such a secluded area as her picket line.
The gang finally arrives at the cabin, only to find the place empty and in disarray. Things worsen as they become stranded at the remote lake—their car won’t start and their cell phones have been rendered useless. As the autumn sun fades, the mystery of the missing parents unravels and sibling rivalry explodes, hiding the sinister fact that something has crept from its watery dwelling, emerging from the lake in search of human blood.
Director Marc Buhmann and writer David Moore don’t bring much new to the popular Zombie subgenre. Instead of fresh ideas, they crib well worn tricks from Scream and Romero’s Dead flicks. They do, however, try to infuse a human element into the story, with the raging jealousy between the sisters, only the conflict never digs deep enough to draw an emotional response from the audience. The filmmakers are simply too in love with all the other genre gimmicks to spend the time needed on the characters. It’s too bad, since the cast certainly appeared up to the job. Especially, Alissa Bailey, who could rival PJ Soles’ smart-mouth, sexy tomboy attitude in any of the genre queens earlier roles.
In most of these low budget straight to video releases, much time and effort is put into the look of the film—the zombie effects are very convincing, and Fred Miller’s videography lends the film a more polished look than we usually see in these types of flicks—and that’s where the real payoff is in this flick.
Barry Meyer is a film critic and proud father living in New Jersey.
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