I’ve been entertained by very few musicals in my life. Sweeney Todd, Rocky Horror, The Phantom of the Opera and Evil Dead: The Musical are the exceptions. Most of the time, however, it’s just people with the constant “need” to sing about whatever the hell is going on, the lame plots, the actors/singers who shouldn’t be singing/acting, etc. I’m not sure if director Travis Betz had folks like me in mind when he sat down to pen The Dead Inside, but it sure felt like it.
The story goes like this: Fiona and Wes are in a rut. Wes is a burned-out photographer currently shooting weddings to pay the bills, while Fiona is currently in the midst of a writer’s block, in spite of her success as author of a series of zombie novellas called ‘The Dead Survive’. Fiona soon begins to become unglued and decides to snip off one of her fingers with a pair of scissors and then with them tries to stab Wes in the heart. Wes is obviously freaked out by this, and ships Fi off to the psychiatric hospital. Unfortunately, it’s not her mind that’s the problem: Fiona’s been possessed by a dead girl named Emily. Now it’s up to Wes to try and reach Fiona and reclaim his lady.
I shouldn’t say that’s the only story that’s going on. In a twist of sorts, we’re presented with not only Wes and Fiona’s predicament, but also a zombie couple named Max and Harper, who are currently the subject of Fi’s writings. Now I don’t like to use the word ‘meta’ (since it seems to be the cool word for some people), but that’s what’s going on here. On top of that, you have Sarah Lassez and Dustin Fasching pulling double duties as both Fiona and Wes and Harper and Max, respectively. Now, having to act as two different characters in a film where you’re the only other actor seems daunting, but Lassez and Fasching manage to deliver great performances. Lassez in particular gets points for being able to ham it up as Harper, but also being able to shift between the mayhem of being possessed/not possessed and the cleverness of the musical performances. That’s not to say that Fasching is a slouch. Far from it, as he wields both the comedy and drama roles with ease. Kudos to Betz for being able to make the story as compelling and interesting as he can with so few characters.
Speaking of the comedy, Betz and composer Joel Van Vliet deserve praise for the engaging and downright catchy music and amusing lyrics. It’s not every day you get songs that talk about how much “fun” a zombie apocalypse would be to relieve oneself of their responsibilities. Of course, given the nature of Fiona’s predicament, the songs take a turn in tone, but still remain entertaining. In addition to the songs, Betz works wonders behind the camera with his cinematographer, Shannon Hourigan. Keeping in mind that this is still a low budget affair, the film is shot almost entirely in an apartment with two people. Hourigan compensates with some imaginative and often wonderfully-composed shots rich with colour.
Now obviously, some people are going to balk at seeing this one, since it’s a musical. It’s a given. That’s a minor problem. You could also say that another problem is the fact that Fashing doesn’t get the attention script-wise as Lassez does. Finally, you could say that the second half of the film lags a bit before picking itself up. Whatever the case may be, The Dead Inside still manages to entice and attract attention for not only flourishing under a low budget, but also having talent in front of and behind the camera that obviously love what they’re doing in telling a story, and are good at it. By all means if you have a hankering for horror with music and humour to go along with it, give The Dead Inside a spin. You may surprise yourself.
The DVD is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and as mentioned above looks damn nice with vibrant colour throughout. As for the audio, the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track matches the video with it’s quality: crisp, clear and a great mix, overall.
First up are two commentary tracks. The first features Lassez and Fasching joking around and offering funny stories about their time making the film, and the other is the more serious one with director/writer/editor Travis Betz and cinematographer Shannon Hourigan. The latter focuses on things such as the budget, script and selection of songs, but is still enjoyable.
Following that is a 30-minute making-of featurette that shows just how much effort and care the cast and crew put into this film. Topics include makeup and other effects, choreography, singing and more. This is a perfect example of a featurette making you appreciate the film even more after you watch it, which is always a great thing to have.
Rounding things off is a deleted yet still enjoyable song entitled “What is Wrong”, and the film’s trailer.