Tonight, I rented the 2006 Dean Cain zombie comedy Dead & Deader at Blockbuster Video. Watching it, I had the feeling that it was part of a reality show where each week a team of actors has to make a different kind of film, and this week was “Zombie Week.” Like, each team has an improbably attractive male lead, a couple of improbably attractive females, a wisecracking African-American sidekick, and some weird-looking character actors. And if I had been sort of “cheering for” these actors like they were contestants on a show, I could see myself really being proud of how they handled different scenes in Dead & Deader. Like: “Woah dude, you did a great brain-eating scene. That was just like in a real zombie film. Nice job, yo!”
Except this film is supposed to be a finished professional product, not a reality show, so I was kind of disappointed.
In Dead & Deader, Dean Cain plays a special forces-type soldier who goes on a mission in Cambodia (which looks a lot like Southern California) during which he is “killed.” His body is shipped back to a military base in (again) California, where he reawakens on the mortician’s table as a zombie. Cain must then discover the fate of his unit, the reason behind his reanimation, and other predictable mysteries.
The film’s got plenty of self-aware cultural subreferences. (Two soldiers debate the merits of the James Bonds after Connery. A bartender quizzes the protagonists on what the “TIE” in TIE-Fighter stands for. The main characters consider the original Dawn of the Dead against the 2004 remake.) Sometimes, however, these references seem misplaced. (At one point, a senior military officer-character remarked to Dean Cain: “Your story has more holes than a Michael Bay film!” And I was like, woah, people in glass houses, dude… People in glass houses…)
There are a few interesting zombie action/violence scenes. (A midget zombie bites a guy’s balls. A zombie gets its hand ground into sausage. Cain throws a cleaver which cleanly severs a zombie’s head, and then the head lands amusingly in a cooking pot.) However, they are few and far between.
There are also a bunch of zombie-movie chestnuts, which are delivered here without much innovation or creativity. (A mad scientist who wants to use zombies to create everlasting life. A gross animal cooking/dissection scene. A sympathetic zombie who must fight urges to eat his friends.) Certainly, no new zombie-ground is broken in Dead & Deader.
Finally, the climax/showdown in an explosives warehouse at the end of the film is predictable and not really satisfying. Many mysteries are left unexplained. The film ends abruptly, with the lead actors resolving to go have sex in a hotel room. (But score another vote, I guess, for zombie tumescence…)
Unless you’re a rabid Dean Cain fan, I’d have to recommend skipping this movie.
Final Thought: While it’s clear (I hope) that I didn’t like Dead & Deader, I found some dissenting voices online. If you’d like a second opinion, here’s a review from a zombie site that liked it.