Anger of the Dead (also called Age of the Dead), is the impressive writing and directorial debut of Francesco Picone. It’s also produced by Uwe Boll, who I don’t hate nearly as much as everyone else seems to (House of the Dead and Seed were awesome, shut up). It’s a slow burn zombie thriller with very good acting for a clearly indie production, and it hits the mark in all the right spots. The zombie genre is super-saturated right now, and its very hard to find something with a fresh take. To be honest, Anger of the Dead isn’t particularly refreshing either, but it is an excellent movie.
We have a pregnant woman who, after her already-born daughter is eaten by a zombie (off-screen, unfortunately. That would’ve been refreshing.), escapes with three people who are attempting to drive to a dock where a ship supposedly awaits. The number is quickly dwindled down to just her and her new love interest. The other side of the plot revolves around a cadre of paramilitary personnel who hunt zombies and run a prison-of-sorts where they hold a young woman hostage, beating and raping her regularly. She apparently is a special prisoner who is rumored to be the key to understanding how to resolve the zombie apocalypse. The two worlds collide three quarters of the way through the movie, and things don’t go particularly well for anyone involved.
I knew from the very beginning of this movie that I was getting a decent film. The cinematography is excellent, on-par with much higher budget films. The dark gray hue of the film sets the stage for what is a severely depressing entry into the genre, and when the first child gets taken out (which happens mere minutes into the film), we realize its only going to go downhill from there. There was very little gore, and what gore there was wasn’t particularly realistic, but honestly, it would’ve ruined the mood of an otherwise excellent film. The little girl who gets eaten in the beginning isn’t the only one, and the other child victim scene is especially disturbing. I think it’s a nice change that we see kids bite it. Most movies shy away from that, which, to me, is unrealistic in and of itself. Kids die in the zombie apocalypse too; what, we’re just supposed to not notice there aren’t any kids running around in these wastelands? Anger of the Dead handles the subject deftly.
While I do feel that the film tried a bit too hard to be a 28 Days Later replica, it carried enough character development (which is sadly missing in most horror I watch) and acting chops to make it all work. The evil military dude had a strange voice, but that’s more nitpicking than anything else; actor Aaron Stielstra did a great job with him too. There really wasn’t much of a plot, and what there was was a tad contrived, but, as I’ve said before, a decent script and good cinematography can really make up for other parts that are lacking. The film is very slow, but still manages to be well and appropriately paced. Anger of the Dead was really much more of a thriller than a horror movie, only falling into the latter category because there were zombies. The bad guy was legitimately bad, the good guys were very good, and there was a clear dichotomy between the good and evil parties.
There were also some legitimately creepy scenes, with a heart-pounding opening that made the viewer feel a sense of foreboding dread that never really let up. You always felt while watching that you were a heartbeat away from tragedy, and that something was always about to jump out at you from the shadows. There were hardly any jump scares, the director deciding instead to spread out the scares to build anxiety within the viewer, and it worked like a charm.
All in all, I’d say it’s a helluva film, especially for a relatively standard zombie flick. I was surprised to see so much thought and style from what was clearly a low-budget film, and there was some real terror being built here. I was actually scared during a few scenes, which was also a nice change from the usual. Picone did a great job, and I am actually looking forward to checking out cinematographer Mirco Sgarzi’s other work. A great effort, and a nice addition to an overspread genre of horror.