The Ford Brothers’ 2011 zombie movie The Dead was a breath of fresh air to a genre which, post-Shaun of the Dead/Walking Dead/Everything But The Kitchen Sink of the Dead was becoming as stale and fetid as the lifeless shufflers who populated the rancid opportunist low-budget bandwagon-jumpers which, inevitably, followed in the wake of the rather more inventive and respectable movies which had preceded them. We described The Dead, a zombie outbreak yarn set in a stark, parched African landscape as “a bit of a gem... haunting and memorable”. This belated sequel – it originally saw the light of day in 2013 and only now limps out on DVD in the UK – attempts to pull off the same trick by relocating its action to India but, as the laws of diminishing returns nearly always dictate, it can’t hope to recreate the freshness and vivid vitality of the original. That said, while it’s brisk and enjoyable in its own right, there’s nothing really special going on here, just a movie going through the motions and hoping for the best.
As the title suggests, we’re in the subcontinent where a zombie infestation quickly breaks out following the arrival of an infected Somalian at the docks in Mumbai. As the outbreak spreads and incidents of civil unrest increase, American turbine engineer Nicholas Burton (Millson) decides to head back to Mumbai to find his pregnant Indian girlfriend Ishani (Mishra), whose own mother has been bitten and whose father, who disapproves of her relationship with the American, keeps his daughter virtually under house arrest. But as Mumbai collapses into chaos and fear, Burton races across the dangerous, hostile landscape – cheeky orphan Javed (Goyal) at his side – to be reunited with the terrified Ishani.
The Dead 2: India bounces along as a decent zombie/action thriller and it hits all the expected beats - perilous escapes, commendable gore, well-mounted action set pieces, moral dilemmas – but it misses the stillness and downright strangeness of The Dead. By and large it fails to make the most of the cultural differences of its locale – much of it is set in Mumbai, but it might as well be downtown Los Angeles for all the difference the location makes – and there are none of the eerie, disquieting moments of creeping horror and dread which characterised the first movie. The story sags a little in the middle – it seems to be taking forever for Burton and the kid to reach Mumbai – but there are a few sit-up-and-take-notice moments. Burton’s escape on a paraglider from a phalanx of zombies is inspired and the moment where he tries to help a young Mum and her child trapped in a crashed car and realises he can’t as a pack of zombies shuffle closer, is chilling stuff and the ending doesn’t exactly scream ‘and they all lived happily ever after.’ But most of the time we’re in familiar territory and the film never comes close to recapturing the sense of style and originality of The Dead. Underrated British actor Millson (The Sarah Jane Adventures, Banished) is a dashing hero figure (and his American accent ain’t at all bad) but the supporting cast of inexperienced Indian actors often don’t acquit themselves quite as well.
Whilst The Dead 2: India is undoubtedly far better than the majority of the straight-to-DVD zombie trash which still shambles onto the shelves, and the Ford Brothers continue to display an impressive directorial deftness, maybe it’s time they turned their attentions elsewhere and let The Dead stay dead.
Special features: Trailer
THE DEAD 2: INDIA / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: HOWARD J. FORD, JONATHAN FORD / STARRING: JOSEPH MILLSON, MEENU MISHRA, ANAND KRISHNA GOYAL / RELEASE DATE: JULY 13TH