Dead Weight (2012)
Directed by John Pata and Adam Bartlett
Starring Joe Belknap, Mary Lindberg, Michelle Courvais, Aaron Christensen, Sam Lenz, Jess Ader, Matty Field, Jake Martin, Mark Muetzel, Steve Herson, Lee Marohn
I’ve known John Pata, co-writer/co-director of this film, for quite a few years, ever since he was promoting his short zombie film called Better Off Undead. While he’s fond of reminding me the little “I hate low budget films” speech that I gave him when he wanted me to take a look at BOU, he still wanted to me to take a look at it and give him my honest opinion of it. Turns out, I actually liked it and thought it was pretty good. So years later, when I hear that he’s planning on making another film, but this time a feature length film, I was curious what kind of film it was going to be. I had heard the comments that some might not call it a horror movie from Pata, even though he felt it still was. But I’m here to tell you that it is definitely a horror film. Might not fall in the typical stereotypes of the genre, but it is in there.
Since a lot of my friends were involved in this film project, I was hearing about it pretty much all through the production. We were always reading posts about the long hours that Pata and co-writer/co-director Adam Bartlett were putting in, the many hats the different crew members were wearing, you know…all the fun stuff that independent filmmakers put themselves through for the sheer love and passion of making movies. If you’re not one of those people, it is kind of hard to explain. But if you are, then you know exactly what I’m talking about and about what these kind of people go through, just to bring their dream/passion to life. And for that, anybody who tries should at least be applauded. But even more so when they give us a well shot, well acted movie, but even more important one with a good story. And this is what we have here with Dead Weight.
It is a simple story about a young man named Charlie who is trying to find his girlfriend after some sort of nationwide epidemic or catastrophe has happened. What exactly has happened, we are never told. There are hints here and there, but it is never confirmed what is going on. But honestly it really has little to do with the story. Because that is about the characters and how they interact with each other, and dealing with different situations that come up. Charlie started out in Toledo and sets out to Wausau, Wisconsin where he told his girlfriend to me him there the last time they talked. This is no easy task since there are the “infected” to look out for. But they are the least of Charlie’s worries. Teaming up with a few others, they slowly make their way to their destination through the back roads, fields, and where they can to keep from being noticed, always searching for food and a safe place to get a few hours of sleep. But as we soon learn, the real horror they have to avoid is not necessarily with the infected, but other strangers they meet along the way, but also within themselves, especially for Charlie.
The beauty of this film is that it shows the darker side of humanity. There was a quote from John Carpenter’s Starman when Jeff Bridges’ alien character says that “humans are at their best when things are at their worst.” I do believe that…in most cases. But unfortunately there are people out there that do not think that way, and are looking out for just themselves, even at the cost of others, or their moral conscious. And it is these people that can make an intense situation or scenario even worse since they are thinking more about themselves than anybody else. But we’re not just talking about people that are bad or mean in general. Even the best person, under dire circumstances, can start to lose sight of everything when stress level rises too high, or they focus on a certain goal, and make sure that nothing gets in the way of meeting it. Rational thought can then become push to the side. DEAD WEIGHT gives us a perfect example of when good people can go bad and do things they never would imagine doing otherwise. It is an honest portrayal of what a person can go through when put to the test. And sometimes, there are those who fail that test.
Pata and Bartlett, along with a great cast, have captured that perfectly here in this film. While we know something is going on out in the world, what is happening right in front of us with these people is much more terrifying. It goes beyond one’s logic on why a person would act a particular way and therefore makes it difficult to deal with. Everyone would think that you would want to survive and help others do the same. But when you are tired, hungry, and your nerves are beyond worn out, and then start to take away that trust factor, all bets are off. You then start to question even the simplest of things…especially people.
If you’re looking for an action based horror film, filled with plenty of jumpy camera shots and blood flying everywhere, you better keep looking. But if you’re in the mood for a entrancing tale of humanity and how people react during dire times, then this movie is for you.