The Dead Outside is the first feature film from Kerry Anne Mullaney and Kris R. Bird’s Mothcatcher Films and features debut performances from Alton Milne (Daniel) and the then 16 year old Sandra Louise Douglas (April).
Set in the Highlands of Scotland (although filmed in the Borders) Mullaney and Bird tell an intimate tale of two survivors of a neurological disease which has effected all of Britain (and possibly the rest of the world). As the story progresses we’re introduced to Sharon Osdin as Kate, who threatens to break the strained relationship these two survivors have formed. With a closed off April refusing to reveal exactly her story it soon becomes clear that there’s much more to her existence than is first apparent.
The first thing to note is that the ‘zombies’ in The Dead Outside aren’t the classical re-animated undead and are instead more akin to the rage infected viral zombie with the exception that they maintain their ability to speak. All the zombie vocalization though alludes to a similar motive and perhaps an effect or even the cause of the epidemic. This, like many questions in the film, is left unexplained and The Dead Outside is not a movie that wraps the story up in a neat bundle within it’s 80 minutes.
Each of the characters is very well realised, which is surprising from a film with such little dialogue. It’s far from a silent movie, with most of the story revealed through the characters interaction, but the tone and pace set in the opening ten minutes is succesfully throughout the movie. From Daniel first coming across April, to the emotionally driven conclusion, these characters are people and Mullaney successfully puts you there with them.
Despite being the first feature from Mothcatcher and the limited budget the film’s shot on, the directorial skills Mullaney learned from shooting music videos makes this an accomplished piece to watch. The only downside to the direction is that the action pieces and fights with the zombies are akin to Batman Begins, in that we never see any of the action as the camera flashes and jumps.
Unfortunately the actors themselves suffer from what I call ‘watching my sister act syndrome‘ where I’m very aware that they are putting on a performance. That said, other people don’t suffer from it when watching my sister and it may be the Scottish accent that I notice more (I’m Scottish). That said Sandra Louise Douglas does manage to get across a hint of menace and fear and doesn’t come across as just a typical ‘angry at the world’ teenager.
Much of The Dead Outside is left cloaked in mystery and the only thing that really stops me loving it is that I don’t think the blanks will ever be filled in. Many things which are hinted at in the film could have any number of equally satisfying and unsatisfying conclusions leaving a decidedly frustrating quality to the ending, despite the final act being it’s most powerful.
Will hopefully have a interview with Kerry and Kris soon and will try and get some answers, until then you can sign up to be told when the DVD is released.