I am a big fan of Blu-rays and physical media in general. Even though I order my most wanted releases online, I still find time to go to brick and mortar stores, because you never know when or where you will find a hidden gem. My ventures out this Tuesday yielded such a treasure. Per the usual, I was browsing the new releases; a banner on one says “Exclusive Collectors Edition,” so of course I was intrigued. Then I saw the price underneath saying $9.99; my interest was definitely piqued. I picked up the advertised film – titled Dead 7.
Reading the names on the cover: Nick Carter, Joey Fatone, AJ McLean, and Howie Dorough reminded me of my time in high school at the height of the boy band phenomenon. I did not know what to expect; I turned the movie over and discovered that this film is touted as “Starring an ensemble cast of music’s biggest pop stars, a ragtag band of assassins team up to rid a small town of a zombie plague in the post-apocalyptic west.” As I panned down, I saw the familiar Asylum logo.. it all started coming together.
If any of you have heard our podcast “Just the Slips” that we do here on thenerdmentality.com, then you know I do a Distributor Spotlight of the Week. The Asylum did win this prestigious award way way back in Just the Slips Episode 4. I do have quite a few of The Asylum films, and make no effort to hide the fact that I enjoy them. However, I also realize (like many who watch them), that they aren’t perfect and have certain limitations. I even lamented the fact that when I did some research just a few weeks ago that I could not find any upcoming Blu-ray listings; everything coming out seemed to be DVD only. I was extremely hyped (as much as one can be) to find an Asylum film on Blu-ray that I didn’t know was coming out. To that end, it was in the player for my first viewing within an of returning home. Having heard nothing about this, I had no expectations going in other than my general impressions of the studio. I can safely say I was pleasantly surprised.
The Movie Itself (3/5)
The film opens with a quick voice-over. Following that, we see A. J. McLean (from Backstreet Boys) as Johnny Vermillion, leading an undead army to lay waste to a village. It soon becomes apparent we have an Expendables type story that has two different villains leading the charge against a ragtag team of good guys, but instead of soldiers as cannon fodder, we have hordes of zombies. The voodoo witch priestess Apocalypta (Debra Wilson) is hell bent on taking over the towns and destroying the inhabitants. Can these sharp-shooting outlaws save the day?
Even though Nick Carter is first billed (and is credited with co-writing the screenplay), we don’t see his character right away, nor does he become the lead Stallone-esque character in any way. I do think that is one of the lacking aspects of the script; the film could have benefited from more cohesion. Joey Fatone does his best to take that mantle as Whiskey Joe. Unfortunately, he is also the comic relief; he is drunk and constantly urinates everywhere. The acting is (surprisingly) good for an Asylum film. Normally you can tell when productions had to hurry and get all these takes in quick, but Dead 7 seemed to take its time for the set-ups, allowing their actors to seem more natural. There are some low points, including Nick Carter’s wife Lauren, who plays Sirene. It seems like this is her first major acting role, and it does show on the screen. If someone with more experience was cast I think it would play better off the other actors.
Besides the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync, there are also appearances by other musical groups including O-Town, Everclear, and All-4-One. If you ever wanted to get your late 90’s nostalgia on, this might be the film to do that.
The plot sets up a nice story, and could have really expanded from there. Unfortunately you will be probably be left with too many questions and not enough answers. There are quite the few headscratchers, and some scenes transitions tend to jump without quite explain how they got for the previous scene to the next. The 90 minute run time is the perfect length for this type of film. There is some filler which could have been used for other plotlines, but nothing that will have you constantly checking your phone throughout. If you like your zombie films with some nice action and gore, or enjoy buxom blondes that apparently can only find a shirt that looks four times too small, then this movie might just be for you.
Visuals/Picture Quality (4/5)
One of the things I was most impressed with were the practical effects. The zombies looked great for the most part. The CGI was much improved over what you would normally associate with an Asylum film. A good portion was high quality, although that is somewhat ruined near the end when they try to do too much resulting in a finish that comes off looking amateur. If that one scene was taken out (or occurred closer to the beginning), it might have avoided the cheesy Syfy TV movie look. The picture quality holds up very well; everything is sharp and detailed, and you can see some nice set design pieces. The only issue I have is there is a very muted grey tone to the film. It’s supposed to make the post apocalyptic west seem dark and dreary and while it does accomplish that, I think they just went a little too far as some scenes seemed a little washed out.
Score/Audio Quality (4/5)
The score was very subtle for the most part, and didn’t really stand out. The effects however had good bass and sounded like they had some power behind them. There are no audio options on the disc besides the English 5.1 DTS-HD. Of course everyone will want to know is how often do they sing in this film. The answer is not at all; the only song you will hear is during the closing credits.
Special Features (2/5)
Dead 7: Behind the Scenes (10:42) Behind the scenes are my favorite type of feature as I love seeing how the inner working go on. This was closer to a cast interview feature however, where the different members describe their character and how they heard about the script.
Dead 7: A Look at the All-Star Pop Music Cast (4:07) Some of this has overlap with the previous featurette, but does have the Cating Director (their typo not mine) talk about some of the lesser known cameos that audiences might have missed
Dead 7: Gag Reel (2:24) If you are interested in special features you know what a gag reel is
VFX Before and After (1:12) A side by side compilation of various shots throughout the film.
- Dead 7
- Z Nation: Season 2
- Little Dead Rotting Hood
- Night of the Wild
- Martian Land
- Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!
- Sharknado: Heart of Sharkness
- 3-Headed Shark Attack
- Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
- English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime 90 Mins
Even though I enjoyed this film for what it is, I have no delusions that I will somehow convince the masses to see it. For one thing, its not made for them (the masses, that is), nor does it cater to the average group. The goal of this review is to let fans of the genre and Asylum films know that not only is Asylum back on Blu-ray after a too long hiatus, but in this viewers opinion, it is certainly one of their better films. I know this film was made for TV and you don’t get the standard faire of language, super gore, or nudity of a normal zombie film, but it still captivating, especially if you have some friends over to watch it watch together.
I am not sure exactly what makes this an “Exclusive Collectors Edition” in Asylum’s mind as it is light on features and basic packaging, but maybe this is a smaller print run. I can’t answer that for sure so use your judgement when considering a purchase, though this is significantly less expensive than limited editions from other studios. This film is a Best Buy Exclusive for the time being, and at a price of $9.99 I would certainly recommend it if you like the genre and/or this review interested you.