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Jeremy Chasten
Sarah Rose Harper, Brandon Thane Wilson, Katie Foster
Writing Credits:
Zach Chassler

Four teens serve detention on a high school campus beset by a mysterious menace.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 73 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 9/22/2020

• Audio Commentary with Director Jeremy Kasten and Actors Sarah Rose Harper, Brandon Thane Wilson, Katie Foster and Torey Garza
• Audio Commentary with Director Jeremy Kasten, Editor Maxx Gillman and Executive Producer Niels Harboe
• Visual Effects Featurette
• Set Tour Featurette
• Trailer & Previews


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The Dead Ones [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 17, 2020)

Would it be unfair to describe 2019’s The Dead Ones as a horror version of The Breakfast Club? Probably, but it sounds catchy, so I’ll run with it.

A high school ends up with a mess on its campus. As punishment, four students receive detention that forces them to clean the location.

This doesn’t go off in the simple way one might anticipate, as a strange gang stalks the teens in the school. They need to fend off this threat as they deal with echoes of prior trauma as well.

All of that sounds like fairly standard horror fare, though the issues with the students’ pasts adds a potential curveball. That side of the film offers a supernatural vibe that separates Ones from a basic terror flick.

While I respect the movie’s ambitions, Ones finds itself adrift far too much of the time. Unfocused and confused, the movie lacks consistency and real impact.

Too much of the flick embraces frantic cinematic techniques. We get rapid-fire editing that makes it tough to follow the story, and the score telegraphs every possible emotion.

Cinematography usually emphasizes the “shakycam” side of the street. Combined with the crazed editing, it becomes really tough to follow the stabs at narrative.

As it happens, some of this serves a purpose, as Ones comes with twists that allow the choices to make sense – sort of. On the surface, I should like these decisions, but the execution seems so ham-fisted that it doesn’t work.

Ones comes with a big twist down the road, but it doesn’t take much observational powers to figure this out well in advance. After a befuddling first act, the curve becomes obvious.

In theory, this seems like a good idea, but Ones remains so muddled that it doesn’t fly. The surprises feel predictable, and the movie explores none of its ideas in a compelling manner.

I do respect that Dead Ones tries to do something a little different with the horror genre, but its execution falters. The frantic filmmaking style creates too much of a mess for anything else to overcome it.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

The Dead Ones appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into a decent presentation.

Overall delineation looked acceptable, though the movie could lean a little soft at times. It tended toward a murky feel and that didn’t ensure admirable delineation, I saw no jaggies or shimmering, and both edge haloes and print flaws remained absent.

Amber/orange dominated the film’s palette, and some blue/teal appeared as well. While predictable, the colors seemed adequate, though they could feel somewhat heavy.

Blacks showed reasonable depth, but shadows tended to come across as too dense, so low-light shots could be tough to discern. I suspect a lot of my complaints reflected the original photography, this still seemed like an inconsistent presentation.

Similar thoughts accompanied the adequate DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Dead Ones. This wasn’t exactly an action-packed mix, so one shouldn’t expect constant auditory shenanigans. When appropriate, the soundscape kicked to life in a decent manner, but much of it focused on ambient information and music.

Audio quality worked fine. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other issues.

Music offered good range and impact, and effects followed suit. These elements contributed fine dimensionality, with strong low-end at appropriate times. All of this led to a decent soundtrack.

As we move to extras, we get two separate audio commentaries, the first of which comes from director Jeremy Kasten and actors Sarah Rose Harper, Brandon Thane Wilson, Katie Foster and Torey Garza. All five sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of story and characters, cast and performances, locations and related production areas.

Unsurprisingly, issues connected to the actors and their work dominate this chat. That could become a useful overview, but the commentary doesn’t tend to go much of anywhere.

While we get occasional insights, much of the track feels banal. This becomes a listenable discussion but not a particularly informative one.

For the second commentary, we hear from director Jeremy Kasten, editor Maxx Gillman and executive producer Niels Harboe. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/characters, sets and locations, cast and performances, various effects, and related domains.

For the most part, this becomes a competent look at the nuts and bolts related to the film’s creation. The track mainly focuses on technical areas, and it does fine in that regard.

One disappointment: we don’t learn much about the film’s tortured path to the screen. It took Kasten and company more than a decade after principal photography to actually complete the flick, and we don’t get a lot of info about this.

Oh, we find hints that the post-production went forever due to a lack of funds, but the participants don’t tell us much, and I’d like to know more about how those involved worked on the flick over that long span. Despite this omission, the commentary becomes reasonably informative.

A Special Effects Featurette runs five minutes, seven seconds and provides notes from special makeup effects intern Jax Smith. She tells us a little about her experiences as a newbie to movies, but she mostly relates how excited she was. Some decent glimpses from the set compensate for the lack of much information.

We also get a Set Tour with production designer Jeffrey Pratt Gordon. It goes for three minutes, 57 seconds and takes us through the high school set. He brings us a decent overview.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find previews for Dead Dicks, Welcome to the Circle, Blood Paradise and Red Christmas.

To its credit, The Dead Ones attempts something a bit more ambitious than the average horror movie. Unfortunately, its flawed, overbearing stylistic choices undercut any positives and make this a seizure-inducing mess. The Blu-ray comes with erratic picture and audio as well as a few bonus features. Dead Ones lacks consistency and coherence.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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