Dead Outside, The

Rating:

A “Zombie” Movie That’s Not a Zombie Movie

Main Cast: Alton Milne and Sandra Louise Douglas

Director: Kerry Anne Mullaney

Pandemic survivor Daniel’s car has broken down so, to take refuge from the infected, he enters an isolated farmhouse that, at first, appears to be empty. Only the next morning does he discover it’s inhabited by April, whose family owned the farm before the world ended. It’s not zombies or the undead that threaten April and Daniel, though. The infected in Kerry Anne Mullaney’s 2008 movie The Dead Outside are suffering a neurological disorder, which is never really gone into in real depth, so I didn’t totally understand the threat. But going by April’s and Daniel’s actions, whatever’s wrong with everyone is not only contagious, but dangerous.

Daniel has managed to survive by outrunning the infected while April appears to be immune. He tries to convince her to see someone in authority, someone with the ability to maybe harness a cure from her blood, but April refuses, and if that’s not good enough for Daniel, he can pack his stuff and get the hell out. Daniel, feeling somewhat secure for the first time in months, agrees not to bring it up again.

The two meander through a series of days on April’s farm, which is surrounded by barbed wire to keep the infected out, but every so often their peace is disturbed by a random attempt to get at them. April’s got a rifle, though, and she’s getting pretty used to killing and burying infected wanderers. One day a wanderer shows up who’s not infected.

Kate (Sharon Osdin, A Mug’s Game) is a nurse who happened upon the farm much like Daniel, by accident. April says Kate can’t stay, but gives in allows her one night inside. Discovering April’s secret, Kate tries to get the woman to someone who can maybe use her to save the world. Unfortunately, she does this by drugging April, tying her up, and tossing her into the back of Daniel’s car, neither of whom (April or Daniel) take kindly to it.

The Dead Outside is a quiet movie. 86 minutes long, there are so many stretches of silence that it feels like a good twenty minutes longer than that. That’s not to say it’s boring, there’s just not a lot that happens within that runtime. And most of the action scenes aren’t really action at all, they’re hyperactive flashback scenes that come and go in the space of a second or two, thrown into the movie seemingly at random, many of which didn’t make sense to me at the time. I had to read a plot synopsis online afterward in order to understand many of April’s flashback scenes.

That doesn’t detract from the enjoyment, however. Whether I understood exactly what was going on–when something was going on at all–didn’t matter so much when Sandra Louise Douglas was onscreen as April. Maybe it was the accent that kept me engaged (The Dead Outside is a Scottish film), or maybe she’s just a talented actress, despite the fact this is her only credit to date. Either way, the movie held my interest well enough.

Alton Milne (TimeLock) as Daneil doesn’t necessarily shine next to Douglas, but he holds his own well enough and makes Daniel into a likable character we want to root for.

If I had any complaint about The Dead Outside, other than those long stretches of nothing much seeming to happen or the fact the “disease” is never really explored or explained, it would be the quality of the film.

Maybe it’s a side effect of being filmed in Scotland and the constantly dreary skies, but the color looked washed out in almost the entire movie. In fact, there were parts where I wasn’t even sure it had been filmed in color. I actually wondered sometimes if I was watching a black and white movie, but then there’d be a shot of something else and a pop of blue or red would stand out. And I haven’t seen enough Scottish movies to know if this is typical of the film stock used there or if this particular movie just went for the cheap stuff. It was distracting to say the least.

But overall, despite its flaws, The Dead Outside wasn’t a bad movie. I’d say if you like end of the world stories and are bored with the typical zombie crap, this one might give you the fix you’re looking for without the fat. As small as the active cast is, and as isolated as April’s farm is, we never really get the sense of a wider world out there being plagued by some neurological disorder. For all we know, this is a movie about two people surviving together on a farm, and that’s it. The threat from the outside could have been anything for as much as Mullaney made of the disease and what it’s done to the world. And I like the movie all the more for NOT focusing so much on it. Sure I would have liked to better understand just what was going on out there, but if she wasn’t going to tell me anyway, then best not to dwell on it and give me a story about characters instead.

And that’s just what she did.

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