Bullets for the Dead
Vanessa Motzen, Christopher Summers,
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…you’re reminded of early Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson…
A bounty hunter and the gang of thieves he’s bringing in are forced to team up when they run afoul of flesh eating zombies in this Queensland-shot horror/Western hybrid.
Bullets for the Dead is a low budget affair, but director Michael Du-Shane and his co-writer, Joshua C. Birch, do pretty well with their chosen genre conceits, never winking at the audience in a painful “we know this is cheesy” way, but rather finding cool and interesting ways to make their limitations work for them. In an exercise like this you’re going to get a mix of the amateurish and the inspired, and Bullets for the Dead provides far more of the latter than the former. Yes, some of the performances are a little histrionic, but in terms of style there are times when you’re reminded of early Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson, who knew a thing or two about producing flair on a budget. There are moments that really shine – a nighttime assault by zombies, who are all dressed in black and white striped convict clothing, is a striking setpiece, and an extended sequence at a mysterious convent peopled by sinister nuns verges on the genuinely unsettling. It almost goes without saying that there’s plenty of gore and action, but we’ll say it anyway – if that’s your thing, you’ll be well sated.
Still, the film is not faultless. Although leads Christopher Summers – the eye-patch-sporting bounty hunter, James Dalton – and Vanessa Motzen – female outlaw leader Annie Blake – acquit themselves well, other performers falter to get their tongues – and accents – around the film’s post-Deadwood dialogue, and the pacing does flag here and there, especially in the back half. And, of course, the budget occasionally, albeit rarely, nudges the viewer out of the world of the film, as what is purportedly the Old west is suddenly and clearly rural Queensland.
These are forgivable, though. There’s clearly a lot of talent involved here, spinning gold out of straw. Here’s hoping Du-Shane and company get another crack at a feature; if they can do this with next to nothing, a decent budget should see them work wonders.
Bullets for the Dead is playing at Sydney’s Dendy Newtown on August 18, Brisbane’s Newfarm Cinemas on August 19, and Hobart’s State Cinema on August 28, complete with Q&As with director, Michael Du-Shane, producers, Cathy Rodda and Norm Wilkinson, and select cast and crew members. Hit the official site for details.