I guess the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” can go in either direction. Typically, that adage is used when the proverbial ‘cover’ is deemed negative in some way, but the ‘book’ turns out to be positive. Well, in the horror genre and independent films in general, I would assume, the opposite happens quite often. So is the case with Jeff Ferrell’s Dead West.
A charismatic killer travels from town to town, picking up women and killing them shortly after exchanging pleasantries. Always on the run, no one ever catches up with this ladykiller. That is, until the brother of one of his latest victims follows his trail. Is this drifter’s time finally up?
That synopsis actually sounds like a pretty rad take on the revenge sub-genre that I’ve grown to love over the years. The problem with that is that this synopsis, which I’ve paraphrased, of course, is kind of a lie. Sure, the brother of one of the killer’s victims does go after him, but once he finds him, he only lasts about five to ten minutes on-screen, before he meets his inevitable demise. That’s an hour into the film and there’s about another 45 minutes remaining, after that happens. Clearly, you can see that there is much more to Dead West than what that plotline leads viewers to believe. I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way, either…
This low-budget independent movie had some potential, but I couldn’t get past certain things enough to actually enjoy any of it. There was too much ridiculousness going on, on my television screen, for me to just ignore. For instance, one of the antagonist’s newest lady friends tells him of a deadbeat pimp named Sug White who has taken off with all of her money. He decides that he wants to be this big hero, since you know, the real hero (the brother) is already dead and all, and go get her cash back for her. We meet Sug and he ends up being a white man who calls himself ‘the blackest in the room.’ Of course, his black cohorts all happily agree. Really? I’m assuming this was supposed to be the comic relief for Dead West, but it just comes off as embarrassing and quite unnecessary.
Dead West has a pretty high body count, but none of the kills are ever seen on-screen. This was done on purpose by writer/director Jeff Ferrell, as he didn’t want the film to focus solely on the gruesome killing, but more so on the psychology of the killer, himself. I understand fully and commend him for his vision, but this doesn’t necessarily serve the film well in any way. All of the development of the character and the study of his psyche come across as boring dialogue between random characters who you know are going to die soon anyway. The long talks and insights into his past don’t do anything to further the film. On the contrary, they drag the already snailish pace down to even more of a screeching halt. Diving into a serial killer’s mind can be a beautiful film experience (just take a look at Henry), but sadly, Ferrell and his team just couldn’t pull it off in a satisfactory way.
I will say this. Jeff Ferrell did sneak some clever tidbits into his film; My favorite of which was the double feature drive-in that the ladykiller attends to find one of his victims. The two films playing that night? Maniac and Vigilante… an abridged version of the synopsis I mentioned above. Very clever stuff in my opinion and definitely worth mentioning!
While Dead West seemed to show some promise, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Too much talking, no on-screen kills, a fight scene that is embarrassing to watch, and a serial killer that actually isn’t that interesting to get to know couldn’t reel me in. I do, however, encourage you guys to watch the film on your own and see if you get anything out of it that I may have missed.
Dead West is available on DVD this Tuesday, February 7, from RLJ Entertainment.
My final Repulsive Rating for this flick is 1.5 bowls of the best damn salsa around out of 5.