Special Dead (2006)

DVD Cover (Special Dead LLC Reissue)
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> Zombie Classics
Overall Rating 52%
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Ranked #7,167
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When a zombie plague infects Camp Special Dude, a dude ranch for the mentally handicapped, a ragtag band of campers and counselors struggles to survive the night. Led by the indifferent, nun-chuck-wielding head counselor, Mac, and his wheelchair-bound sister Dale, the unlikely heroes fight their way off the mountain as, one by one, they're picked off and join the ranks of the walking dead. It's a campy stampede of blood, boobs and gore as some "very special" people show that they can kick some serious undead ass. --IMDb
Jason Brubaker
Jason Brubaker
Amy Wade
Amy Wade
Gia Franzia
Gia Franzia
Anthony Rutowicz
Anthony Rutowicz
Haneka Haynes
Haneka Haynes
Review by Chad
Added: May 21, 2008
I'm far from being Mr. Politically Correct, but I've always found it funny that certain slurs aimed towards race or sexual orientation are almost grounds for a public flogging when used in any capacity, yet the word "retard" is almost as common an insult as the tried and true "yo mama" lines. Sure, it's not like those who would be most affected by this insult actually know that they're being insulted and thus probably wouldn't put up much of a fight about it, but... shit, I tried to be sensitive with this review and I lasted a grand total of one sentence. Anyway, it's not at all uncommon to read movie comments that read something along the lines of "That character was such a retard" or "That movie was retarded", but in the case of Special Dead, those lines wouldn't be insulting at all - they'd merely be describing the film at hand.

Our film for this afternoon takes place at Camp Special Dude, a camp that caters to those who are "mentally challenged." Run by the grizzled old Snuff Stone (Larrs Jackson), a man whose daughter Dale (Gia Franzia) is both "challenged" and wheelchair-bound, this camp is the perfect getaway for those fine young folks who have special needs and who also enjoy decorating their protective helmets. Well, it's the perfect getaway spot, except for the fact that there's a bit of a zombie problem taking place on this land, and now, the walking dead are hellbent on making a meal out of these "special" kids.

With their fates resting in the hands of the egotistical Machiavelli Stone (Jason Brubaker), his "I don't love you, but I love fucking you" female sidekicks Cassie (Amy Wade) and Harley (Haneka Haynes), and a violent thug named Eriq (Jah Shams) who was sent here instead of juvenile detention courtesy of a court blunder, do these kids have a chance in hell at making it out alive? Will Todd (Anthony Rutowicz) be able to use his talents at making crafts out of popsicle sticks to finally win the heart of Dale regardless of their current situation? More importantly, how in the hell will they manage to attach a chainsaw to a wheelchair?

There's really not a whole lot of originality left in the world of zombie films, as it seems like damned near every film coming out these days features storylines and plot devices that have been done before. Sure, the faces are fresh and the kill methods may change from film to film, but an overwhelming majority of these films simply tread down roads that fans of the zombie subgenre have traveled before. With that said, I can honestly say that this is the first time that I've ever seen retards squaring off against the undead, so one has to give the filmmakers credit based on originality alone. That in and of itself wouldn't warrant a recommendation, but the fact that the film actually worked given this ludicrous premise certainly does.

What made the film work as well as it did was the way that the filmmakers took the two selling points of the film - retards and zombies - and used them to create a film that was, quite simply, entertaining as hell. It's a solid zombie film at its core and those of you who can't get enough of the walking dead will love it: there are some decent scares to be found, and those of you who enjoy the red stuff will be delighted to know that there are some great gore effects on display here. On the other side of the fence, we have the retards who (sort of) serve as the heroes of the film, but more importantly, they serve to make the audience laugh. Is it wrong to laugh at someone because of this, even if it is just a fictional portrayal? Perhaps, but as morally wrong as it may be, I got more than a couple of great laughs out of those kids and the way that they handled their shambling foes. Surprisingly, the gag didn't get old as the film moved along; I know, you're wondering how anyone could possibly keep this material fresh for ninety minutes, but I'll be damned if they didn't do it.

Speaking of those retards, I was shocked at how well the actors portrayed those characters. Having seen more than my fair share of actors attempting to act as though they're mentally handicapped (thanks, Troma), I can safely say that it's fairly difficult to pull this impersonation off without simply looking like an actor trying to act retarded. That's not the case here: with a couple of exceptions, all of the actors seemed perfectly natural in their roles and had me truly wondering if the filmmakers hired legit retards for the roles (and if they did, I'm really going to feel horrible after writing this).

Jason Brubaker was entertaining in a campy sort of way and pulled plenty of laughs out of me (his line delivery after breaking out the nunchucks is just classic), and the ladies had their moments to shine as well (wait for the catfight). I particularly enjoyed Larrs Jackson and felt that he should have received more screen time than he did, as this character had the potential to deliver far more memorable moments than what he did. Nevertheless, the man steals scenes time and time again when he does show up to drop some nuggets of zombie-killing wisdom.

On the negative side of things, I really only had two fairly minor complaints about the film. My biggest complaint came courtesy of some of the music that was used, and more importantly, the amount that was used. Call me old-fashioned if you will, but I'm of the belief that heavy metal should be used sparingly if at all in a horror film. It's not that I have anything against the music (and the music featured here wasn't bad at all), but it simply detracts from the action in most cases. It worked in select scenes, but if I had my way in the editing room, I would have dropped about eighty percent of the music.

My other complaint only popped up two or three times, but it did stand out enough that I felt it deserved a mention here. There are certain scenes where the violence goes past gratuitous and heads straight into "overdoing it" territory; for example, one of the heroes will be bashing a zombie's brains in, and then they'll do it some more, and then a little bit more, and just for kicks, they'll continue doing it for a few minutes more. I have no problems with over-the-top violence as many of you fine readers are probably aware of, but certain scenes went beyond that and just felt overdone.

Overall, the film did have a couple of issues, but neither of them were major enough to prevent a solid recommendation. If you enjoy a good zombie flick and if you're not afraid to laugh at the topics presented by the filmmakers, then Special Dead should be in your DVD collection. 8/10.
Nirrad #1: Nirrad - added 05/21/2008, 03:38 PM
Holy Smokes! I think I found my next purchase. This sounds like the perfect movie for me. The best of both worlds!
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