Director/Story – Rene Perez, Screenplay – Barry Massoni & Rene Perez, Producer – Mattia Borrani, Photography – Paul Nordin, Music – Mattia Borrani & iDic, Visual Effects – Michael A. Martinez & Jake Maymudes, Makeup Effects – Ed Martinez, Production Design – Cheryl McIntire & Pat McIntire. Production Company – Mattia Borrani Productions.
David Lockhart (Mortimer), Camille Montgomery (Rhianna), Rick Mora (Brother Wolf), Robert Amstler (The German), Pat McIntire (Sheriff), Colin Hussey (Salesman), Mandy Pauline (Rosemary), Autumn J.D. Harrison (Elizabeth), James Edward Tolbert (Hoss), Randall Marshall Dillon (Jebediah)
The bounty hunter Mortimer takes the assignment of tracking down Brother Wolf, an Indian wanted for the rape and murder of a white woman. In the town below the hills where Brother Wolf is hiding, Mortimer is warned that all who have attempted to capture him have been found dead and scalped. Mortimer instead purchases Rhianna off a marriage broker/pimp and ties her up in the wilderness as bait. Brother Wolf outwits Mortimer and frees Rhianna but Mortimer still takes him prisoner. Meanwhile, two prospectors have uncovered a glowing meteorite and taken it back to town. When they try to crack it open, it emits a glowing green gas that infects the townspeople. As Mortimer, Brother Wolf and Rhianna return to town, they are attacked by zombies that emerge everywhere. Fighting them off requires Mortimer to free Brother Wolf and the two to agree to work together.
Both the zombie film and the Western have undergone some strange permutations in recent years. In the early 00s, the zombie film underwent a huge revival with Resident Evil (2002), 28 Days Later (2002), Dawn of the Dead (2004) and Shaun of the Dead (2004). More recent efforts have started to offer up wacky zombie titles or parody concepts – as witness a sampling of titles like Zombie Beach Party (2003), Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006), Z: A Zombie Musical (2007), Ninjas vs Zombies (2008), Zombie Strippers! (2008), Attack of the Vegan Zombies! (2009), Romeo and Juliet vs the Living Dead (2009), Stag Night of the Dead (2009), Big Tits Zombie (2010), Bong of the Dead (2011), Cockneys vs Zombies (2012), Pro Wrestlers vs Zombies (2014), Zombeavers (2014), MILFs vs Zombies (2015), Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies (2016) and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016).
Similarly, starting several years ago as the Western began to run out of ideas, people started to conduct strange genre collusions – with horror mash-ups such as Curse of the Undead (1959), Billy the Kid Versus Dracula (1966), Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966), Ghostriders (1987), Ghost Town (1988), Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1990), Grim Prairie Tales (1990), The Burrowers (2008) and Bone Tomahawk (2015), and science-fiction variations like Westworld (1973), Welcome to Blood City (1977), Timerider: The Legend of Lyle Swann (1982), Back to the Future Part III (1990), High Plains Invaders (2009) and Cowboys & Aliens (2011). There had even been a zombie Western before with The Quick and the Dead (2006).
The Dead and the Damned is a modest effort from ingenue filmmakers. It treats the idea of the zombie Western surprisingly seriously (as opposed to tongue-in-cheek). It is certainly a commendable attempt to make a Western with limited resources – the photography of the landscapes looks good and everyone seems to be making a more than reasonable effort. The town where much of the film takes place is a recreation town in Jamestown, California, which has provided sets for numerous classic Westerns such as High Noon (1952), Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), Pale Rider (1985), as well as Back to the Future Part III. There is also a more than reasonable soundtrack of songs and off-key piano music played by iDic, a band made up with members of the film crew.
There are some particularly good performances from the cast of unknowns. David Lockhart may not have the physical stature to look like a tough bounty hunter but plays with a moral strength and quietude that impresses itself on the film. Rick Mora is equally good as the Indian nemesis who, throughout the course of the film, is shown to have far more honour than he is initially described. Indeed, the unfolding nature of the two characters – especially one scene where they sit across a table in an empty hotel and reveal the surprisingly similar stories of forbidden loves that have damaged their lives and reputations – is one of the strongest aspects of the film and is particularly well written. It is only Camille Montgomery who fails to make any distinction as the girl.
It is only when it acts as an all-out zombie film that The Dead and the Damned becomes less effective. The zombies are generic, having been cast as the modern fast-moving brand of zombie. The makeups are only so-so. After the point when the zombie onslaught begins in full, the film’s delivery of gore-drenched mayhem is on the tame side. The film fails to build anywhere near the nightmare siege situation we get in classic efforts like Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978). There is one reasonable scene with Camille Montgomery being pursued through the hotel by a zombie woman with a head so bloodied that she has been left blinded but the film needed far more of this. The film could have held so much potential showing the characters holed up in the hotel fending off zombies but peters out amid a handful of shootouts in the streets. Nevertheless, it is a worthwhile ingenue effort.
Director Rene Perez made two sequels The Dead and the Damned and the Darkness (2014) and The Dead and the Damned 3: Ravaged (2018). Rene Perez subsequently went onto make Demon Hunter (2012), two further Western genre hybrids with Alien Showdown: The Day the Old West Stood Still (2013) and Prey for Death (2015); another zombie film The Burning Dead (2015); a trilogy of slasher films Playing with Dolls (2015), Playing with Dolls: Bloodlust (2015) and Playing with Dolls: Havoc (2017), and The Obsidian Curse (2016), From Hell to the Wild West (2017) and Death Kiss (2018). He has also made a trilogy of fairytale adaptations with The Snow Queen (2013), Sleeping Beauty (2014) and Little Red Riding Hood (2015).