It’s no surprise that with all the ways the end of the world is meant to happen that terrorists would be one. Dead Air opens with a botched terrorist attack releasing toxins into the air of a crowded stadium.
Panic and horror ensue.
It’s not a bad poster, it communicates what it sets out to, a good clear photo of the radio host with the tv on in the background showing . . . something horrible going on outside.
The plot involves a latenight radio host whose theme for the night is to talk about paranoia and conspiracy theories on his show. He presents a pretty foolish one at the top of the show: how come we never see the sides or other angles of the Taj Mahal? He isn’t serious about it and when his friend says they could just look it up online he rejects that option, preferring the mystery.
That seems at first just some fun back and forth but from my experience, I’ve found that the kind of people who love nutty conspiracy theories aren’t particularly fond of answers to those theories that actually make sense. “What’s that? You have evidence and data proving how people built the pyramids? Nuts to you. Aliens did it!” So it wasn’t a bad bit of writing at all.
As the show goes on we actually get some decent exposition and a bit of edgy dialogue. I was right about to write this movie off as a cheap flick after the crappy opening in the car (see below.) Then I realized some or one of the writers really did have something to say about American paranoia and fear. In this movie we get some zombies but it’s not unlike the wartime paranoia over the axis, McCarthy-era paranoia over the reds, 70’s-era paranoia over drugs, the 80’s-era paranoia over Russia, 90’s back to drugs and of course minorities demanding rights, 2000’s terrorists, 2010’s disease. Is there ever a time when we aren’t paranoid or constantly bombarded by news telling us we should be afraid? Isn’t that what the zombie hordes in popular culture really represent? Not the fun monster movie creatures we like to think of but actually the fear of disease, social collapse, government failure and financial ruin. I might have to do a separate post just about that!
Nevertheless, the story isn’t half bad. It’s not a movie I’d highly recommend but if you are bored on a Sunday afternoon with a cold and some tea, it might be the one for you.
– I’ve rarely heard worse dialogue than the opening sequence where Logan just talks and talks into the phone to his buddy Carl while driving to the station. It’s not really clear who’s actually talking. Is it the guy in the car or is it the person on the other end? I had to watch that part again just to be sure I wasn’t missing something. Some shots of his face would help, or maybe if the actors’ mouth were actually moving, thereby giving us the impression he might be talking. Follow that up with some bad acting by an extra and his obligatory coffee cup and we’re not off to a great start.
– When one of the terrorists shows up at the radio station entirely by coincidence I just call shenanigans. If he headed there because he’d heard a broadcast and knew people were there and he could get his message out it would make total sense. But showing up there by accident? Yeah, no.
– The zombies in this seem a bit different than in other movies. They have a bit more cognition than other shambling horrors we’ve seen. The worst possible example of that is when a zombie gets shot in the head; the bullet stops in the back of his skull, he reaches around, pulls it out and looks at it, and THEN drops dead.
I hate this not only because it’s simply bad writing and kills believability but also because this isn’t even the first time I’ve seen it happen in a movie. Remember Alien Resurrection? Same thing. Guy gets bit in the back of the head, reaches around, pulls out a piece of his own brain, looks at it, goes crosseyed and THEN drops.
How does something THAT bad even get into a movie?
– Holy haymakers Batman! The action is pretty poorly staged. One scene involves a character jumping into an elevator to escape an infected security guard. He isn’t scrambling to get in there in a panic. He does the superman jump, arms outstretched and just jumping straight to the back of the elevator, like a kid playing pretend. The doors close predictably on the zombie guard’s arm who then gets into the elevator and starts throwing these wild, easy to duck haymakers. It’s pretty cartoony action, more like what kids would do than real people. Plus it must be one of the biggest elevators ever to allow that much space for a fight to go on.
– There’s clearly a desire to address anti-muslim sentiments but they do get pretty confused. On one hand the people in the story seem to feel that not all terrorists are Muslim and not all Muslims are terrorists. Then the terrorists show up and, yup, they’re Muslims. Maybe having them be Mormons or Buddhists or whatever might have made the fear of Muslim terrorists seem less grounded. But by going there they seem to be saying they wish to address, not the fear of Muslims who might be terrorists but the fear of actual Muslim terrorists.
It’s hinted that the radio hosts’ wife is Muslim but I don’t think that’s clearly stated in the film.
Basically, it raises a few questions, explores them a little but doesn’t really resolve them satisfactorily. Not that you would expect them to do so in a Z flick. Still, as a reflection of modern culture it is pretty interesting to see that turning up. The film makers seem to say they thing this is what people in this situation would really say or think and that the movie shows that.