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Dead Ahead (2008)

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Genres:
Horror, Horror Comedy, Zombie Film
Director:
Billy Ray Brewton Billy Ray Brewton
Starring:
Sonny Backus Sonny Backus
Bernadette Chapman Bernadette Chapman
Mary Anne Garrett Mary Anne Garrett
Diann Gogerty Diann Gogerty
Alex Justinger Alex Justinger
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> Zombie Classics

4.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: July 21, 2008
I've said it before in a previous review, but it bears repeating: I have a tough time reviewing films that come from people I know as it sort of puts me in a pickle regardless of what I actually thought of the film. If I hated the film and tear it apart on this site, that doesn't exactly work wonders for professional relationships / friendships / what-have-you, but on the flip side, if I loved the film and let my review reflect that, I can easily be accused of selling the product just to help somebody out. Today's film, a release from our very own Billy Ray Brewton (aka bluemeanie), certainly fits into this category, and I guess that I'm going to have to say "bring on the accusations" as I thought that the film was hilarious and very entertaining.

Starting out much like a thousand other zombie films, we begin the storyline by learning that there has been a gas leak at the local nuclear power plant... the power plant that sits right beside the town cemetery... the cemetery that houses over a hundred corpses, not the least of which is Veta Lou Watson (Mary Anne Garrett), the lady who was formerly known to the locals as "The Polka Queen." Alright, maybe there hasn't been a polka queen in a thousand other zombie flicks, but you know what I meant. Anyway, it doesn't take long before the undead are descending upon this sleepy little town, and from there, we witness a few kills and see how the townsfolk react to this outbreak of the walking dead.

Rounding out the cast is the lovable family consisting of Donald Waite (Jonathan Goldstein), his one-step-away-from-dementia father who is affectionately known as Pappy (Brad Riegel), his wife Connie (Bernadette Chapman), his son Todd (Alex Justinger), and Todd's girlfriend Shannon (Diann Gogerty). Also thrown into the mix are the bumbling officers of the law Sheriff Walter T. Nash (Saxon Murrell) and Deputy Horace Plunkett (J.J. Marrs) as well as the drunken cemetery caretaker Jasper (Sonny Backus).

The polka queen may have given it away, but in case it didn't, let's make one thing clear right up front: Dead Ahead is a horror comedy plays out like - according to the filmmakers - Return of the Living Dead meets The Naked Gun. While it's true that the "zomedy" is nothing new and has been done before (the fact that they're replicating the formula is poked fun at in one scene), they can still be fun when done properly, and let me assure you that the boys responsible for this one did it properly.

The main strength of the film is the clever writing, as to be blunt about it, there are quite a few jokes in here that are damned funny. Take, for example, the scene in which two good ol' Southern boys (Drew Brown and Bert R. Payne) are sitting in their car awaiting the arrival of the local drug dealer so that they can get their fix for the night. This scene is hilarious not because of any easy sight gags or routine fart jokes, but instead, it pulls the laughs simply because of the writing that was handed to the actors. Yes, that's it - the two guys sit in a car, and every last word that came out of their mouths was golden.

There's also a scene in which the local law enforcement... actually, every scene involving those cops is great. Watching the lazy deputy go to great lengths to answer the phone using his rifle instead of simply getting up works because we've all been there at one point or another, and watching the words that come up in their friendly game of Scrabble is funny because, again, we've all been there - who hasn't tried to rack up the points with "tits" and "queers"? It's the simple stuff that works, and while it might not make for great humor when you read it here, it'll have you in tears when you see it on the screen.

Now, with that said, a great script can easily be ruined with a lackluster cast, especially in a film that relies on the dialogue to succeed. Thankfully, with the exception of a single person (and even she wasn't bad), everyone involved was fantastic in their roles and felt completely natural with their characters. The aforementioned Southern boys were by far my favorite characters of the film as they drew the most laughs in my humble opinion, but this certainly isn't meant to short-change everyone else. The cops play off of one another beautifully and seem perfectly believable in their roles, Brad Riegel is excellent as the father who is a few weeks away from a nursing home and he truly seems to be missing a few screws, Sonny Backus steals a scene or two with his drunken antics, and of course, the family that the film revolves around work wonders with their roles.

My only real gripes about the film came courtesy of the running time and a few spotty CGI effects. One scene in particular involves a shotgun blast to the chest which produces an almost laughable explosion of digital blood, and I'd personally rather see a gore scene which is underdone than a scene which is overdone using CGI. The running time issue is hard to really bitch about as it was a short film, but I would have loved to have seen more of an ending. The ending that we're given works, don't get me wrong, but it left a handful of loose ends that would have required another thirty minutes or so to tie up. See the conundrum there? Thankfully... well, see the next paragraph.

This review is for the forty-minute cut of the film, and as a short film, it's an extremely memorable affair. The boys are working on a feature length version of the film, and if this longer version can avoid feeling padded and stay as fresh and witty as this version did, I see them having no problems picking up a national distribution deal. When that day comes, make damned sure that you pick this one up. 9/10.
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Ginose #1: Ginose - added 07/26/2008, 12:36 PM
Well, Billy Ray, not going to lie: Hate your guts. Doesn't mean I haven't liked you shorts. Looking forward to this one when it rolls about.
Admittance:Stole a few of your camera techniques for a comedy short I'm shooting. Kiss my ass.
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