Sunday, January 29, 2017

Death Walks – review

Director: Spencer Hawken

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers

I found this film on Amazon Prime and took it to be just a zombie flick, unaware that there is a vampire element. Unlike, say, Kill Zombie! this is not an extraneous vampire section tagged on, leading to an Honourable Mention, but is an integral part of the film. And that is almost a spoiler at the level of the Hamiltons, in other words spoiling that there is a vampire aspect at all. Unfortunately, that is the nature of the blog but I believe there are far more major spoilers within the film and I shall leave those be.

they're behind you
One reason why I wanted to watch the film, beyond the fact that I like a good (or even a rubbish) zombie flick, was to see what the filmmakers achieved. The film is zero budget… absolute zero… cast and crew donated their time, locations were borrowed gratis and anything used in effects were donated. I see a lot of films (especially free streaming ones) that are clearly shoestring and, frankly, unwatchable. This has issues, don’t get me wrong, but the fact that this was watchable (enjoyable even) is a testament to the filmmakers. There was a Kickstarter but this was for money to submit the films to festivals, I understand.

nightmare
It opens with a scene of a hooded figure walking along and, bar some vibration wobble on one angle on a bridge shot, I was struck by the professional quality of the photography. The hooded figure bookends the film and I won’t spoil who or why. We then see a face in the dark and John (Jon Guerriero) bolts awake from his nightmare. He is a security guard at a shopping complex and is due on the nightshift with Kris (Kris Tiwari). Apparently the two actors were actually security guards at the location – hence their dialogue sounding natural. Actually, Jon Guerriero stood out for me, and he seems to have gone on to other acting work. Why he had these nightmares isn't explained or examined at all.

sexual harassment at work
As the film opens and the centre closes for the night we meet other characters. These include the over-sexed store manager Louise (Lucinda Rhodes-Flaherty, Dead Cert) keeping naive worker Steve (Daniel Smales) behind for some “how’s your father”. Rhodes-Flaherty is clearly having a whale of a time. We meet Simon (Jordan Grehs), Paul (Samuel Window) and Lucy (Kaylee Pleasance), whose role in the film felt a bit on the padding side, to be honest. We also meet Chloe (Holly Boeva) who had her first day working in a store – she spends the film wandering the non-public corridors of the centre lost and nattering on her phone – oblivious to everything that is going on.

Jessie Williams as Poppy
Some strange occurrences happen before the primary events occur. A strange Italian woman, Lucrezia (Francesca Ciardi), draws symbols on the floor at the entrances (being moved on several times) and warns that *they are coming*. Then John finds a strangely silent girl with heavy and unnatural veins (or scars perhaps) stood at a locked door. When she doesn’t respond he brings her in to the centre and radios for an ambulance to be called for. He is sure he recognises her and gets one word out of her, her name is Poppy (Jessie Williams). He then realises that she is the girl in a newspaper, thought missing her DNA had been found at a scene but nothing else.

commandos in Romford!
So, strange figures start to move through the complex. These are our zombies, veined around the head they might just stand perfectly still as someone walks amongst them. Often we don’t see them move and certainly don’t see the attacks (mostly). I say mostly as we do see one explicit attack on John. However when a group of commandos investigate them we don’t see the attack at all, just the bodies of the soldiers on the floor after being dealt with – our zombies still again.

attack
This brings me to issues. I could handle the relatively poor zombie makeup – we are in zero budget land and it is addressed in film. The acting ranges from poor to good – but some of our cast aren’t actually actors and others have a wealth of experience – so the variance was natural and expected. However it was in the plotting I felt somewhat let down. Aspects such as the soldiers being called in when the police don’t appear to take Alice (Joanna Finata) the centre manager’s call seriously seems bizarre to me. Why would the centre have access to mercenaries? How did they drive through London with a machine gun on their truck and assault rifles ready to go? It was too far out for my disbelief. Further, we don’t see them killed but as they all have fingers on triggers I can’t believe that not a shot would have been fired (and heard right through the centre).

fangs on show
As for the source of our zombies. It was interesting and a nice (and unspoiled twist) – whilst I was watching the film. It doesn’t stand up to thinking about it however, though to explain why would move me into spoiler territory again. So, leaving that behind, what about the vampire? Well, if you remember Lucrezia from the beginning of the film and her warnings… she returns towards the end having had perhaps a little more of a hand in some aspects than we knew and she is a vampire and does bear fangs (cgi). What did she have a hand in? That would again spoil too much but the meaning of and reason for her occultish graffiti is never explored.

Bloody mouth
Am I being overly critical of the story aspects that I had a problem with? I don’t think so, they are there and it would be remiss of me not to mention them. Viewers of zombie films might want to see a bit more action (mostly we see the zombies stationary and menacing in their stillness) however I recognise that there are story and budget reasons for couching those aspects as they have been. The bottom line is I enjoyed this as I watched it, I wanted to know what was happening and why it was happening. Not perfect but for the budget impressive. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

4 comments:

Spencer Hawken said...

Hey!

Thanks for the lovely post!

I really appreciate it and the rating.

Accept all the criticism, it's hard to make everything come together with no money.

If you get to watch the film again, please pay close attention to the phone screen, your questions about the mercenaries will be rewarded!

Again thank you so very, very much for covering the movie!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hey Spencer, thanks for commenting and thank you for a cool little film.

Had a quick look and I see the Mercenaries were MoD... I'm still confused as to how they would get a MoD response or how soldiers would be allowed to drive armed through Romford but, in the grand scheme, I can let that go and enjoy the film for the entertaining movie it is - and you did so much with so little :)

Spencer Hawken said...

Hey once again.

Thanks so much again.

We deliberately made it very very subtle, there are lots of other little bits you may see that you didn't, should you ever stomach it again.

The part you missed is right at the top of the phone screen "airsoft chat" and the conversation after discussing boots is they were going to bring Mod as in modded ammo, experimental ammo.

The guys featured are an air soft team. Who believe it or not at 2am drove from Brentwood to Romford (7 miles) with the machine gun in place (it was fixed) without being stopped once, they did this on two occasions.

My idea was that these were "toy soldiers" hence their fall on the floor all positioned like those modded toy soldiers you'd get in the pound shop.

Again thanks so much, we made a very different movie called No Reasons that will stumble out at some point this year, that links directly to those final pre end credit sequences. We'll be shooting the closing chapter this year, so the unofficial trilogy will be finished in 2017!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EQpkos3pHa8


Much love from the entire DW team!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cool, glad to hear there is to be a series. If there is a V aspect in either and you want me to look at them for the blog then give me a shout :)