Dead Country (2008)


Thanks to the internet and the reduction in price of decent filming equipment, we’ve seen a democritisation of entertainment production, allowing all sorts of new and previously marginalised voices to get their work seen and appreciated. A negative aspect is this has led to a reduction in the profits of the traditional B-movie companies, forcing them into cheaper and less polished product, but a perhaps even bigger negative is that it’s allowed people like Andrew Merkelbach to make and release movies.


If only I were being overly negative for the purposes of getting a laugh. I’ve used this explanation before, but I genuinely think the only reason this movie was made was so the director could hang around with beautiful naked women. If we’re going by “unnecessary nudity”, then every woman in the cast (barring the reporter right at the end) qualifies; there are also a few scenes where Merkelbach (who’s also the “star”) has naked ladies running up to him from nowhere.


The thing that pisses me off about garbage like this, is that every criticism can be countered with “well, we were making it bad on purpose” or “we were just having a laugh”. It’s not so much incompetent as it is anti-competent, some sad horror movie obsessive with absolutely no aptitude for this line of work at all, with a pocket full of money, wandering around the woods for a few days. The bits that are supposed to be funny are miserable, and the bits that are supposed to be tense are miserable. All the other bits are miserable.


Before we get going, though, I want to discuss how, if you’re too stupid to spell the name of one of your top-billed actresses correctly, you probably shouldn’t be making movies. An example? The genuinely decent Jacqueline Lovell (“Hideous!”) appears in this, and here’s how her name looks in the opening credits:


Then, just in case you thought that was a fluke, one of the “comedy” subtitles from later on provides us with this gem:


So, the movie. Merkelbach, pasty and unappealing even by the standards of self-funded cinema, is an alien of some sort, and his spaceship is shot down over the Earth. He’s able to beam out, but the debris from his ship turns people into zombies, then they turn other people into zombies, then 70 minutes later it ends. There’s a narrator, who introduces himself with his real name at the beginning (perhaps a first?) and lots and lots of cameos.


Might as well mention those. If you look at this movie, you’ll notice two things – it’s Australian (see the poster above), and there’s a cast of B-movie heavy hitters. We’ve got the aforementioned Lovell, Lisa Wilcox (“Nightmare On Elm Street” 4 and 5), then there’s Janet Keijser (“Witchcraft 12”) and a number of directors in acting roles – Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman, Ted V Mikels (“The Astro-Zombies”) and William Malone (“House On Haunted Hill”). I was thinking “how much of the budget was spent flying this lot out to Australia?” but the answer would, of course, be none. They all just appear in what amounts to skits, filmed probably in their own homes in LA; Keijser’s is basically incomprehensible, as she’s filmed in the bath, takes a phone call, goes outside to talk to her gardener (Malone) and then disappears from the movie. Kaufman’s is just audio, as he plays himself reading a joke advert for his book “Make Your Own Damn Movie!” called “Kill Your Own Damn Zombie!” over the radio. And he’s fourth billed! So not only did the director / star want to hang around with naked women, he also wanted to associate with horror “icons” too, and the easiest way to do that is to pay them. Unless I missed her in the course of things, Lisa Wilcox’s contribution is entirely limited to after the end of the credits, where she’s interviewed about how she’d deal with zombies.


Crammed in the middle of the pointless cameos and unappealing lead cast are tons of basic errors. Early on, there’s a sex scene (where everyone stays fully clothed), where the woman is on top. They occasionally show what would be the man’s eye view, because the woman looks lovingly right into the camera…only she’s looking straight ahead when she should be looking down. Yes, it’s small potatoes! But someone should have spotted it! There’s a character saying “one of those arseholes bit me”, then a two-second flashback of him being bitten, in case you weren’t in the mood to trust him; and there are dozens of examples of the actors frozen in place at the beginning of a scene, purely because their editor couldn’t be bothered to do his job properly.


I sincerely hope that Andrew Merkelbach spent all his own money on this, and he lost the lot (that he hasn’t made anything worthy of mention since on IMDB would seem to bear this out). He seems to not be the most liked of filmmakers (check out the IMDB discussions related to this for a few fun stories), or, it must be said from the experience of “Dead Country”, one of the most talented. There’s actually a sequel, with none of the “famous” names involved, so I’ll only watch that if someone makes a donation to charity on the ISCFC’s behalf. Perhaps the best reason for not allowing everyone who wants to the chance to make a movie.


Rating: thumbs down


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