Not to be confused with The Dead Zone, book, movie, or TV show, Dead Zone is the latest Tubi Original to seemingly appear out of thin air. This time I had some hope that it might actually be good, director Hank Braxtan’s credits include Snake Out of Compton, Dragon Soldiers, and Jurassic Hunt. Not exactly great films, but certainly fun to watch.
The film opens in green-tinged darkness as we’re informed that viral outbreaks have turned most of the population into vicious flesh-eating predators. Cities are evacuated and radiation bombs are used on the zombies. So it’s another zombie apocalypse.
Back at base Ton ( Antuone Torbert, The Cove, Alien Expedition) is talking about proposing to his lady, much to the amusement of squad mates Danner (Tarkan Dospil, Chemical Peel, 4 Minutes), Sinclair (J. Michael Weiss, The Sensei, The Shadow Walkers) and Boss (Michael Jai White, Batman: Soul of the Dragon, Black Friday).
Or at least he is until the real boss, Master Chief Callahan (Jeff Fahey, The Commando, The Long Night) turns up and invites them to a meeting. It seems there’s a prototype vaccine, but the lab it was developed in was overrun by zombies. Mutated ones that survived the radiation blast that turned the area around it into a Dead Zone.
It’s too dangerous to send a large force in, so our heroes have to do it themselves with the aid of some new radiation gear and the scientist who developed it (Chad Michael Collins, Assailant, Sniper:Sniper: Rogue Mission).
With its characters in full body armour, complete with helmets, Dead Zone looks like a crossover between Halo and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead only on a much lower budget. But that’s not surprising when you consider that Dead Zone’s original script was written by Michael Klug and then reworked by Jeffrey Giles and Michael Lurie who, apart from co-writing Alien Expedition and David and Goliath have extensive backgrounds in international sales.
So it Stands to reason that the plot follows a familiar, easy-to-market path and hits the expected notes. A small group of soldiers sent in and signs things aren’t as they were told they’d be. The mission appears too easy until suddenly it isn’t, a human survivor, female of course, where there shouldn’t be any. Even the eventual appearance of a monster (James Markham Hall Jr., Laguna Ave., Dead in the Head) ties in with Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City and the new Netflix series.
Having the characters fully covered by their protective gear is both a help and a hindrance to Dead Zone’s effectiveness. On the one hand, it looks good and not only makes it easy to insert a stunt person into a scene it means that characters played by the name actors don’t have to be bit parts. If you don’t have to see their face, anyone can be in the suit.
On the downside, having their face hidden most of the time makes it harder for the viewer to make a connection with the characters and care about their fate. And in a film like this, that’s a serious drawback. Wisely the script makes sure there are enough reasons scattered through the film for the cast to show their faces to help offset that.
For its budget, Dead Zone does deliver a decent amount of action as the cast tries to avoid becoming the creature’s next meal while getting to the choppah in time. The effects are a mix of mostly acceptable CGI and some practical gore. The creature looks nasty enough, but the rigid, unmoving jaws are less than convincing. While it could use some of the quirkier touches Braxton’s other films have, Dead Zone ends up being an enjoyable watch.