Shriekfest 2011 Movie Review: THE DEAD INSIDE

Written and Directed By Travis Betz

Cast: Sarah Lassez, Dustin Fasching

The next Shriekfest screener received, and thusly viewed, was THE DEAD INSIDE. I want to go on record here and state I’ve been having a hard time coming to terms with this movie. Everything seemed to be there: a unique perspective, above average acting, wonderful production quality. But at the end of my viewing of this film, I seriously wanted to break something.

“Wes (Dustin Fasching) is a burned out photographer paying the bills shooting weddings. Fi (Sarah Lassez) is the author of a series of zombie novellas called, The Dead Survive. They are lovers who, at one time, were at the top of their creative game, but now have misplaced their muse. When Fi begins to show signs of mental illness, Wes does everything in his power to help her get better. But darker forces lurk inside her, and soon they realize the true horror of the situation. Fighting against a disturbed entity, they rediscover inspiration in the grimmest corners of this musical horror movie.

THE DEAD INSIDE is a musical horror film. Let’s be clear, I have a soft spot in my heart for a decent musical, so I am not angry at this film for going that route. However, it seemed the story struggled with a consistent tone throughout. Starting out, so I thought, as a zombie comedy, the film soon took a turn for a more depressing (and dare I say boring) story line. Watching the film, with its musical interludes, I couldn’t help but wonder if Betz was inspired by Joss Whedon’s forray into the musical world with DR HORRIBLE’S SING-ALONG BLOG or that one episode of BUFFY everyone raved about.

I really am struggling in calling this movie a horror film, even though it does indeed deal with dark subject matter. Once the opening credits finished rolling (this was my favorite part of the film), Travis Betz takes the viewer on a journey that goes from comedic, to quirky romance, to sombre drama, to WTF did I just watch?! The glue that seemed to hold the whole thing together were the multiple musical numbers, which were sang pretty well by both Fasching and Lassez. But you can only carry a film so far with such a gimmick, and ultimately the use of the musical interludes seemed more like a big neon sign reading “watch me, I’m different!” while ultimately distracting from the bigger target of delivering a well thought out story.

All this said, the film has more artistic merit than many in the world of independent horror films. I acknowledge the talent it takes to write original songs and have them delivered in an engaging way. Both Fasching and Lassez held their own as Wes and Fi, even though at some points during the movie I did not find their relationship believable.

With a lens that seemed to be focused more on style than substance, THE DEAD INSIDE will be screening this Saturday October 1st at 9:30 pm at the 2011 Shriekfest Film Festival. Still worth a view for the visuals and musical numbers so go see it and tell me I’m wrong! – Aaron P

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