The Dead 2: India
"No less visceral and gripping for its existential concerns, this is truly epic cinema."

Following in the wake of 2010's highly acclaimed African tale, this film sees the action shift to India, where a single migrant worker has returned home carrying the infection. Landing in Delhi, where no apparent precautions are being taken despite the epidemic raging in Africa, he stumbles through the streets, visibly disorientated - but of course there are several diseases that can manifest like this in Delhi, and there's no public health system with the resources to step in, so by the time anybody begins to figure out what's happened, it's too late.

Nicholas (Joseph Millson) is an electrical engineer working on wind turbines out in the desert. He's halfway up the side of one when he sees, at a distance, a shambling man approach a field worker and apparently attack. Back at his station, the nature of the problem quickly becomes apparent, but by then Nicholas has another concern. His pregnant girlfriend Ishani (Meenu Mishra) is 300 miles away in Delhi where strangers are slaughtering each other in the streets. Somehow, he has to reach her.

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A little more heavy handed than its predecessor and not quite as sharp on the epidemiology, The Dead 2 is nevertheless streets ahead of most zombie movies and distinctly more intelligent. Its story, with a few coincidences too many, may be unlikely, but in a context where survival is unlikely this is more forgivable. It benefits from the same stunning cinematography as the original, creating a powerful sense of place, and its power comes from its cultural awareness and gentle exploration of the legacy of colonialism.

Two narrative threads engage with this directly. Ishani's father is anxious that his daughter should have a traditional marriage and not put her trust in an American. Nicholas, meanwhile, meets a street kid, Javed (Anand Krishna Goyal), who becomes his guide and who he gradually finds himself bonding with. It's the little details, however, which are most important in telling the larger story. Healthy, able-bodied and multi-skilled, Nicholas finds himself forced into the role of a giver of life and death, something that doesn't sit well with his post-colonial sensiblities, and the ease with which others accept this does nothing to help. Meanwhile, the romantic notions of India still celebrated in much British film sit side by side with landscapes of poverty made more real by their obvious ordinariness to those who inhabit them. Though it's brief, the graveyard scene here is one that nothing in the history of horror can compete with, at least for those willing to consider the legacy of horrors it conveys.

By bringing together images of lasting poverty with the zombie horror that has become conventional in Western cinema, The Dead 2 forces viewers to ask deeper questions about survival and what it is that keeps people going despite desperate circumstances. Though it's every bit as bleak as you'd expect, it does allow room for hope - that people are still learning from each other, that there is a way forward, even if none of us will see that better world.

No less visceral and gripping for its existential concerns, this is truly epic cinema. It illustrates the way the horror genre can provide the freedom needed for visionary directors to tell stories too quickly sidelined elsewhere. The Ford brothers have shown once again that they are worthy of it.

Reviewed on: 11 Jul 2015
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A street kid helps an engineer make his way across zombie-infested India to save the latter's pregnant girlfriend.

Director: Howard J Ford, Jon Ford

Writer: Howard J Ford, Jon Ford

Starring: Joseph Millson, Meenu, Anand Goyal, Sandip Datta Gupta, Poonam Mathur

Year: 2013

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


Frightfest 2013

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