THE DEAD ONES (2020)
Directed by Jeremy Kasten
Written by Zach Chassler
Starring Sarah Rose Harper, Brandon Thane Wilson, Katie Foster, Torey Garza, Clare Kramer, Muse Watson, Amelia Talbot, Michael James Levy, Shannon Cusack, Shane Tunney
Find out more about this film here!
If you’ve done your horror movie homework, I think you’re bound to guess the twist of THE DEAD ONES from the first five to ten minutes. But while the film follows a well worn trope in horror, it peppers enough interesting, fun, and downright haunting things to make it worth the trip.
A quartet of teenagers are brought to their school that recently was the site of a school shooting. The group is there for detention of some kind and it’s their job to start cleaning up things and getting the school ready to reopen. Meanwhile, a group of kids don gas-masks and plan a siege on the school right outside.
That’s pretty much all I’m going to tell you about THE DEAD ONES in regards to story. Any more and I’m sure you’ll guess what’s going on and it’s this predictability that really distracted me from the story for about the first twenty minutes. Still, I stuck with THE DEAD ONES and I’m glad I did. Though the plot is familiar, I found the screenplay to be actually pretty great. There’s a fantastically haunting monologue one of the students named Mouse (played by Sarah Rose Harper) is extremely well written and realized, giving some haunting backstory into Mouse’s character. I also liked the way these school kids are presented as your typical jock, reject, outcast, cheerleader roles, but once you get to know them, there is a lot of hidden depth and unconventional character there. Writer Zach Chassler did a great job of making this conventional horror story unique with the details and that really made the whole experience work for me.
Director Jeremy Kasten also produced some extremely unsettling scenes. The flashbacks to the school schooting are extremely rough to watch, given the sheer amount of shootings that littered the news over the last few years. Seeing these masked kids in trenchcoats mowing down the students is definitely disturbing and presented in a very non-glamorous way. But as the story proceeds, things get a little trippy, mainly because the mental states of these kids are fracturing, and the demonic hallucinations are nightmarish indeed. I especially loved one of the demons who eats bloody bandages that are littered in the bathroom. So gross, but so wickedly awesome!
A lot of the effects are practical and well done—aided by some CG enhancements. But when THE DEAD ONES goes full CG, there are definitely some issues. One of the things that never works is the CG blood burst and it’s utilized numerous times here. Low budget blood spatter effects just don’t look right and if I could give advice to new filmmakers, I’d say to steer clear and just go for the practical squib burst for a much better effect.
Though I knew where THE DEAD ONES was going to end up, some interesting acting, a solid script, and some unsettling and terrifyingly original monster and gore sequences kept things interesting enough for me to recommend this one. Don’t tune out of this one once you’ve figured out the twist. Sitting through it for the thrills is worth it!