• The Dead Ones (Artsploitation Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Artsploitation Films
    Released on: September 29th, 2020.
    Director: Jeremy Kasten
    Cast: Sarah Rose Harper, Brandon Thane Wilson, Katie Foster
    Year: 2019
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    The Dead Ones – Movie Review:

    Jeremy Kasten’s 2019 picture The Dead Ones revolves around four high school aged teenagers, each one a bit of an outcast: Alice ‘Mouse’ Monroe (Sarah Rose Harper) is a big time outcast, Scottie French (Brandon Thane Wilson) has done time in a juvenile prison, Katie Foster (Emily Davis) would seem to have some serious psychological issues and Louis Friend (Torey Garza), Katie’s boyfriend has got a seriously hot temper. They’re asked by Ms. Persephone (Clare Kramer) to help out at the school over their the last few days of their summer break and to clean up the giant mess that the building has become after an ‘incident’ occurred during the school year. She quite literally tells them that they’ve got to ‘fix it,’ which is an interesting bit of foreshadowing.

    Soon after the main characters are introduced, they get to work and start cleaning up the building as best they can, only to quickly realize that they are not alone. The building is occupied by a heavily armed gang of four people dressed as Famine, War, Death and Pestilence – The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse from the Biblical book of Revelations – and these four have managed to look the group inside. As the gang members start hunting down the four leads through the increasingly dank and dire setting that the school has become, the four find themselves in a battle for survival that will require not only cooperation, but also the ability for them to confront their own personal demons.

    Certainly a very topical film, The Dead Ones deals with a politically charged and incredibly serious subject in an interesting way. We know where this is going pretty early on, at least in terms of the problems that the four teenagers are going to be going up against, but the movie takes some very interesting twists and turns as its brisk seventy-three-minute running time plays out, dealing out very effective moments of emotional loss as often as it does visceral horror (though we get quite a bit of that as well). This could have very easily descended into the crass exploitation of the school shootings that have plagued America for the last few decades but it doesn’t, the script from Zach Chassler managing to treats the issue with the seriousness that it deserves will still managing to tell a gripping story and provide the movie with some serious impact. The ‘film within a film’ prologue that opens the movie sets things up very well in this regard.

    Jeremy Kasten, who has been working in indie film since the mid-nineties (and who has a post-production coordinator credit on Tammy And The T-Rex!) directs well. The pacing is controlled, but quick, getting to the meat of the story without the need for any filler. He gets strong performances out of his cast, with the four leads all doing pretty decent work. It’s clear that this wasn’t made with a huge budget, but Kasten gets the most out of what he had, and what ends up on screen is really solid stuff.

    The Dead Ones – Blu-ray Review:

    The Dead Ones arrives on Blu-ray from Artsploitation Films in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.39.1 widescreen and taking up 19.8GBs of space on the 25GB disc. Shot digitally, there’s obviously no print damage or grain to discuss, the image is perfectly clean. Detail looks pretty strong throughout, especially in close up shots, though sometimes when they camera work gets intentionally busy it softens up a bit. Overall though, this looks very nice, with good color reproduction and no authoring or compression problems.

    Audio options are offered in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, both in the film’s native English. The 5.1 mix is pretty decent, with some nice channel separation noticeable throughout and adding to the tension in the film. Levels are properly balanced and dialogue stays clear throughout. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras start off with the first of two commentary tracks, which features director Jeremy Kasten, editor Maxx Gillman and executive producer Niels Harboe. This track is heavy on the technical side of things, detailing the efforts and lengths that these guys went to in order to get the movie made but also throwing out some interesting trivia about the picture, like how a tattoo artist was used to create the title card seen in the film’s opening. There is lots of talk here about the sets, the production and post production process and more. The second track includes Kasten and cast members Katie Foster, Brandon Thane Wilson, Sarah Rose Harper and Torey Garza. This track is also pretty detailed, covering their thoughts on their characters, what it was like on set, what they had to go through as actors and quite a bit more. Both of these commentaries cover a lot of ground.

    Also included is a special effects featurette where Jax Smith talks about working with Elvis Jones (who unfortunately passed away in 2017 before the movie was finished) that runs five-minutes. This piece details how they put a team together before heading to Baltimore to shoot, how Jax came to do effects in the first place, comparing life on set to joining a circus, what she was able to learn from Elvis and some of the highlights of the shoot. There’s some really good behind the scenes footage here and it’s quite interesting to see.

    Production designer Jeremy Pratt Gordon hosts a four-minute set tour. This is quite literally a tour of the school that served as the main location of the film and we get a nice look at what sort of state it was in when the production team came in and how they changed things around a bit to suit their needs for the movie.

    Finishing up the extras are a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    The Dead Ones – The Final Word:

    The Dead Ones is very well done – smart, scary and unique. Artsploitation Films has done a very nice job bringing this creative and thought provoking slice of indie horror to Blu-ray with a very nice presentation and some fine extra features. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Dead Ones Blu-ray screen caps!