Review: THE DEAD 2: INDIA (dir: The Ford Brothers, 2013)

Swapping the sunbaked aridness of Burkina Faso for the sunbaked aridness of Rajasthan, India British directing duo, Howard and Jon Ford, have taken another stab at the zombie genre, and delivered a movie that is pretty much dead on its feet. 

The cinematography across the course of these two films has veered between the pretty and the clich├ęd. The taste for exotic locales has revealed nothing but a travel brochure-like vision of the world. And regarding the sequel, the whiff of overly fussy compositions is as pungent as the putrid corpses that constantly surround hero, Nicholas Burton (Joesph Millson).

It gets worse, I'm afraid. The absence of any form of suspense is another issue that bogs down The Dead 2: India, and the film never attempts to solve it. Take for example a short scene set in a field of recently buried bodies. The living dead are in the process of clawing their way out of their graves, with Nicholas commenting that it’s as if they can hear the living above. It's a moment loaded with potential for high tension, but is ignored entirely once that observation is uttered. So, too, the moment when Nick’s sidekick, little orphan Javed (who steals the movie), runs back into a shack to retrieve a toy he carelessly left behind. Are we treated to a sequence of knuckle-gnawing horror, that will linger in the mind long after the final credits have rolled? Nope. Javed gets the toy/symbolic memento and runs back to his American buddy. And: cut to the next scene. When it comes to structuring the picture, the craft is perfunctory at best and pretty long shots cannot mask the fact. 

Now, it is not within the film critic’s remit to suggest to the director a creative alternative to their movie, or how individual scenes might have played better ... but why wasn’t the story centred on Javed’s life and story? It could have been like Come and See (1985) ... with zombies! Something we haven't seen before on the big screen. 

The central story - a man fighting to return to his lady - is as old as Greek mythology. Nicholas, then, is the Odysseus figure. Ishani (Meenu Mishra) is Penelope. Making wee Javed Telemachus, and his 20th century literary modernist incarnation, Stephen Dedalus. But I'm giving The Dead 2 a level of textual resonance it doesn't earn. Would the filmmakers recognize such mythic parallels? Probably not.

Nicholas must travel hither and thither across the land encountering an assortment of individuals and groups (living and dead). The lost son Javed meets the potential father substitute (just like Bloom and Dedalus in Ulysses (1922). Ishani’s dad is trying to arrange a marriage for his daughter with another suitor. 

By the way, given Ishani’s job, the Homer-Joyce connection can be pushed further. Nicholas is a bit James Joyce-like. Both men took a fancy to a hotel chambermaid – the very occupation of both Ishani and Nora Barnacle, Joyce’s muse and wife. Nick and Jim also wanted their partners to abandon their homes for a life abroad. Either the Fords are Homer and Joyce enthusiasts or this is reading is just totally absurd because what's there on the screen just doesn't cut the mustard. 

Update: The Dead 2: India will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK on 13th July.