Nothing in this Godforsaken world warms the cockles of my heart (heh...I said cockles) more than a good independent horror film. Dead Weight is a damn good independent horror film.
There are films that come out every single year that are great examples of independent horror but, because of unfortunate distribution, fail to reach a broader audience. Some of these films are later discovered by avid genre fans and are eventually shared with friends and family...until one day finding an audience the film originally deserved. Sometimes this freakin' process can take a whole decade or two. Unless, of course, a savvy horror website happens to find it first and do their absolute best to show it to the world. Or, at least, show it to the five horror fans that happen to read their site. Anyway, this is the story of that kind of film.
Before I go into my review for Dead Weight, I would like to disclose something important: I know some of the people that made this film. John Pata co-directed the film and I actually met him at the HorrorHound Weekend last week and we hit it off quite amazingly. Almost as if we'd been friends all along. I want to make sure that little fact is known before I talk about the film he co-directed. I also know the gentleman who plays Thomas, Mr. Aaron Christensen (more on him later). I just don't wanna sound biased when talking about this film because of how great it is.
Dead Weight is co-directed and co-written by Adam Bartlett and the previously mentioned John Pata. In terms of the technical aspects, the film is shot beautifully (thanks to cinematographer Travis Auclair) and edited nicely (Pata). The sound design is understated in execution and really creates a genuine feeling of tension. There are moments where the film is juxtaposed with flashback scenes from before the impending zombie apocalypse that work so well. Often, in other films and television shows (The Walking Dead is probably the worst offender) the flashback scenes almost pull you out of the story and try their best to give you a back story in a really jarring way. Here, the flashbacks become an integral part of the story and help push the film beyond the usual zombie fare, making it a much more organic story.
The film pretty much opens on our main character Charlie, played by first-time actor Joe Belknap (who does quite nicely, despite never once setting foot onto a film set). You get a brief, intimate feel for the character before the proverbial fit hits the shan. It is revealed that Charlie and his girlfriend, Samantha (Mary Lindberg) agree to meet one another in Wausau, WI. Because, well...why the hell not? Unfortunately, it is also revealed that Samantha took an intern job all the way up in Minnesota. So, they're a long way from each other and rely on hope in order to find one another some day. In essence, Dead Weight is a bittersweet story about a love that never dies amidst a harsh environment where everything else does.
While the film certainly has it's share of rough performances, it most definitely has some memorable stand out performances that helps set the film apart from its soulless counterparts. Aaron Christensen really shines in his portrayal of Thomas, a matter-of-fact man who's goal involves one thing...SURVIVE. Having met and talked extensively to Aaron (or AC) about the entire genre, it really blew my mind to see him acting his ass off in a role that in lesser hands wouldn't have been as memorable.
Because there aren't many actual zombies in the film, the F/X is kept to bare minimum...relying on atmosphere and raw emotion to deliver the actual tension. The true horror in the film is what the human heart is capable of when it is pushed to the limits of desperation and is incapable of just simply letting go. There are downright uncomfortable scenes in the film that truly portray just how despicable mankind can be.
In the way of flaws, there are a small handful of technicalities that would have to be considered due to the low budget. This is indie filmmaking at its purest form so, there will be rough edges throughout the film such as the awkward performances here and there and subtle shadow issues near the finale. But, given the heart of the film...these are really tiny, forgivable offenses that never linger.
Dead Weight is a great example of the spirit of independent horror filmmaking. It is fresh, possesses some genuinely great performances and, most of all, the film has heart. Which is more than most big budget Hollywood films will ever have...or understand, for that matter. Dead Weight joins innovative films like The Battery and 2012's Exit Humanity on a different, more transcendent level. Just when you think that there are no more stories to tell during a zombie apocalypse, along comes a film like this to really shake things up and introduce brand new ways of looking at a tired subgenre. See Dead Weight as soon as you get the opportunity and tell all of your friends and family about it. Because a film like this needs to be seen.
Thanks for reading,