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Rise of the Dead

Directed by William Wedig

Written by Joshua Crook, Jeffrey Crook, Kris Scotto

Starring Erin Wilk, Stephen Seidel, Chris Ferry

Produced by Matt Regney, Patrick Pope, Drew Oppelt, Barbara Burch

Rated R

72 minutes

**

I had high hopes for “Rise of the Dead,” I admit that freely, but when I started the DVD and discovered that it was not only a seventy two minute movie, but also had a menu consisting only of a shot of the box art, my high hopes began to burst like a housing bubble in lead mining country.

And yet, at least in the start, it managed to rise above its less than auspicious beginnings and really pique my interest. A sudden out-of-nowhere murder will do that. And it managed to keep building off that, and be interesting, if only for a while. Which makes what happened by the end of the movie all the worse.

Basically, “Rise of the Dead” isn’t any kind of zombie flick at all. I was pretty pissed when I found out what was actually fuelling this teeny little zombie apocalypse—note the lack of caps on that one—and I think you’d be too if you’d sat through it. Now, I’ve got to do a plot synopsis on this, and it’s actually downright impossible to do so without spoilering. I know, I’ve been at it for a couple days now and this is the best I managed to come up with: Some girl had a baby at a really young age and put it up for adoption. Granted, this is about the best move you can make in such a situation—really mature thinking on her part—and the baby thus begins a trek through a series of foster homes. At one point, he gets adopted into one home with some marital tension going on, and in a moment of carelessness, the baby gets his hands on a loaded handgun left out by the adoptive father.

You can fill in the blanks on what happens next—I really can’t bring myself to type “the baby jams the muzzle in his mouth, pulls the trigger, and shoots himself in the head” without feeling like a total asshole.

This all leads up to the part where “Rise of the Dead” gets just plain old insane: the ghost of the baby returns to earth, possesses various people, and uses them like tools to kill everybody who was even vaguely connected with him.

Okay, read that paragraph again.

Now understand…I really did just say that a ghost baby is possessing people and using them to kill people.

This must be what it’s like for people who smoke crack: murderous ghost babies round the clock, twenty four / seven.

Even the movie thinks this is insane. They’re actually going to have a sequence of dialogue summing this point up about forty minutes in with this killer bit of dialogue from one of the local cops: “You believe that the ghost of your dead baby is possessing the people around you, in order so they can kill you?”

And this bit of lunacy fueling the plot isn’t even the sole downside—the entire first half of “Rise of the Dead” fights its hardest to build interest but can’t seem to help the inevitability of going flat. It’s trying desperately to set itself up as an adoption drama the likes of which even Lifetime would shy away from and a murder mystery so thoroughly incomprehensible as to make even the legendary Sax Roemer shrug in bafflement. Oh, it has its high points, sure enough—almost every movie has some—but the average will still average out to be dull. Worse, by the time it actually starts to get exciting, that’s when it starts to go absolutely bughouse nuts.

Oh, and you can forget about that frantic box art on the front and the back of the box. There will be no monster crowds of zombies shambling toward the camera desperate to get on with the munching. I’m not, frankly, a hundred percent sure just where they got that picture to put on the box because I don’t recognize any scene like that in the movie.

The ending, meanwhile, sort of sneaks up on you—which is no real surprise for a seventy minute movie—and that sneaking isn’t pleasant as the ending turns out to be even more lunatic than the rest of the movie.

The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, cast and crew commentary, along with trailers for “Experiment in Torture,” “Captivity,” “The Abandoned,” and “Holla.”

All in all, man, this movie is utterly beyond any standard of sanity. It’s an easy competitor with the most lunatic Japanese fare and fit only for those poor souls who like their movies bereft of reason.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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