Dead 7 (2016)
Directed by Danny Roew.
Written by Nick Carter and Sawyer Perry.
Starring Nick Carter, Carrie Keagan and Joey Fatone.
“Larger than Life!”
Wow, if there ever was a less promising tagline for a zombie Twistern, I can’t recall it. Hopefully, whoever came up with it will work on expanding their creative writing skills. BTW, I know that’s a reference to a Backstreet Boys song, but still. How do I know? Well, I didn’t; I looked it up and I’m choosing to take the word of the Interwebz. It’s right 100% of the time, isn’t it?
Before I go any further, let me just warn you that the production company behind this film was the same one that fished up Sharknado. So you know this is a direct-to-video release, it’s not going to be about the acting (more on that in a bit) and the FX are gonna go down like a cup full of dust. Even more ominously, this movie premiered on the SyFy channel. Aww, cow patties.
Still with me, cowpoke? If you are, you’re actually in for a bit of a surprise. I’m here to tell you this ain’t half bad. Sure, all of the hallmarks of a cheesy production are there; actors who are anything but experienced and some forgot their charisma at home, most of the gore is sadly noticeable CGI and the star/writer plays it so Eastwood that he could be mistaken for kindling. Most of the actors are just like him in real life; aging members of boy bands who’ve seen their day. Nobody wants a dude nearing 40 sexily serenading their pre-teen daughter. That’s a shotgun-reaching scenario right there I tell ya, pardner.
So which bands, you may query? Well, how does the likes of ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys, All-4-One, 98 Degrees, No Authority and O-Town catch your interest? It’s worth noting that several of the bands were produced by the now infamous ponzi-schemer and now prison denizen, Lou Pearlman. There’s even a member of Everclear (singer Art Alexakis). I must admit, I don’t know, nor have I ever gone out of my way to listen to any of these bands with the exception of Everclear and O-Town. The first band produced some truly catchy alt-pop-grunge songs that caught significant radio play. The second band, O-Town, was documented in a television series which my much better but somehow less discriminating other half chose to watch in its entirety. Roping me in like a car accident, I couldn’t turn away and I’m ashamed to admit that I watched every minute of that train wreck. The music O-Town was (most likely) forced to perform was pretty gawdawful…their first big ditty being a song titled “Liquid Dreams”, which I’m pretty sure was about what happens when you let your imagination run wild and it’s combined with too much personal physical confrontation; that’s one cheap date! There ought to at least be a dinner out involved.
Sharing this auditory atrocity with the world, O-Town eventually performed “Liquid Dreams” to millions of people during the televised broadcast of the Miss America pageant, in the year 2000. It was a good year, but that wasn’t one of the highlights. I highly recommend you watch it on the Youtubes.
And yet…! The story that Nick Carter drummed up is pretty entertaining; in a nutshell it’s The Magnificent Seven (aka Seven Samurai), set in a not-too-distant post-apocalyptic world and there’s a madwomen who is amassing a zombie army to wipe out anybody in her path. Told in chapters, which consist of character introductions and the inevitable big showdown, several of the performances really stood out and made this an enjoyable time-and-flesh-chewer for me. Debra Wilson (from MADtv) goes all the way as the protagonist, Apocolypta; I found her wide-eyed, snake woman movements and weird African sounding language (maybe it is, for all I know) to be very disturbing and entertaining; what does she want and why does she want so much chaos? Unfortunately, that’s never really explained, but that’s just fine. This is just a movie, after all. Her performance was like being stared at for a long spell by a crazy person in a straight jacket; just staring, never blinking and occasionally letting out a little guffaw; hats off to her and a job well done. A.J. McLean (Backstreet Boys) plays Johnny Vermillion, a demonic and murderous court jester-type fellow, who has makeup reminiscent of Sid Haig’s character in The Devil’s Rejects. My eye was drawn to him in the scenes he dominated. But Joey Fatone (‘N Sync) as Whiskey Joe really knocked my boots off; he just rolls in and out every scene like a dynamic juggernaut. Big mustache, full-on Western gear, he’s ready to take a tumble with the ladies and go out in a blaze of bullets, all while tossing back the booze. He’s so much fun to watch, I kept thinking to myself, “Spinoff, spinoff!”
Oddly, there’s a samurai-like character; Komodo, played by Erik-Michael Estrada (O-Town). Once again, there’s no explanation for his character…and I’ll just leave that there to sit as if a cow just passed on by and left us a present. Don’t ask me to explain; I’ve got absolutely no idea. Maybe you can figure it out, it’s possible it was explained in the dialogue and you can put me straight in the comments below; there’s a little auditory challenge for you, should you be so brave as to dig into Dead 7.
There are a few plot twists that you may or may not see coming. But who cares; you most likely won’t be bored, assuming you can get through some of the lengthier moments of dialogue. Fortunately, they’re wisely kept to a minimum by director Danny Roew (Shotgun Wedding), who does a serviceable job. Most of the ambience is created by what appears to be Western town sets that were already in existence (I have no proof of that) and the absolutely outstanding work by costumer and makeup genius, Sarah Sharp. This movie wouldn’t be half the flick it turned out to be without her and her crew. See it and tell me you disagree.
Surely a movie filled with boy band members would be filled with music of that genre. Surprisingly, it isn’t. Instead, there’s a generic, off-the-shelf, packaged Twistern soundtrack that is seemingly in just about every film of its ilk…until the end credits, when there’s an original, all-new, boy band song. Wildly, I thought it was pretty darn fun! Bizarrely, I liked it enough to actually go out and purchase it. It’s cheesy, over-processed and it’s hard to imagine grown-ups interested in singing harmonies like that. Of course, that’s doesn’t explain Bee Gees. But whatever floats your high-pitched boat; you’re welcome, boy/fully grown band members. I hope some of the fractions of a penny royalties reach you. These are guys that have been chewed and spit out by the evil music industry machine, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they were some of the few that actually figured out how to survive it. I hope so, for their collective and creative sanity.
It occurred to me while watching Dead 7 that in some extremely low-budget movie making productions, there exists a sense of depression, whether it stems from an awareness of a lack of skill or the fact that a very limited audience will end up seeing the project you poured your blood, sweat and tears into. But there’s none of that here and I hope the folks involved, particularly Fatone, continue to build their skills and grow with experience. They all looked like they were having a ball making Dead 7.
So put another skewered limb on the campfire to cook, get comfortable on that old, dusty serape and enjoy this adventure full of flesh-tearing teeth, whizzing bullets and wise-cracking, rough and tumble characters straight out of the Old West. It just so happens they might break into a barbershop harmony at any moment. On second thought, maybe they should have made this a musical.
Bring your six-shooters and tell Whiskey Joe that K2 sent ya.