A global viral outbreak has reduced much of the population to black-eyed, blood-lusting ghouls, but through sheer tenacity, the couple has managed to eke out a living, albeit one with very limited freedoms.
by Rob Rector
It’s a pity that Dead Inside will most likely slink off into the obscurities of the video-on-demand horror categories, as it’s much more than its generic title of box cover suggests. Yes, it’s another flick with “Dead” in the title (that makes about 45 in the last decade), and it’s marketing poster is one of those vague black-and-white images with just a splash of red in it (see Insidious, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Curse of Chucky, Patrick, Sinister, See No Evil 2, etc., etc.).
In this slick, streamlined thriller, we are first introduced to a scene right out of a Sundance rom-com, in which two 30-something couples eat, drink and be merry in a rustic little dwelling as a bouncy country tune echoes across the soundtrack. But as soon as the credits finish, we realize that this was all just a distant memory, one that continually haunts one of our leads, Kim (played by Amy Cale Peterson) as she rests on a dingy mattress with her disheveled husband Mike (played by Dean Chekvala) as the world outside burns.
Yes, the leads are in a “cabin in the woods,” and yes, it does have “zombies” in it. But don’t let your exhaustion or aversion to any of these elements keep you from dipping your toes into this dark little pond. For, if anything, Dead Within is one of the growing number of nuanced internal struggles that deal with the fear, isolation and desperation of a world gone to hell in a handbasket.
In fact, Kim does not even exit the house, staying inside to try to remain some semblance of order and sanity while MIke takes daily treks to forage for food and supplies (as well as chalk up the number of “kills” he’s made on the couple’s fridge. We never get a true glimpse of the overall devastation beyond the doors, as director Ben Wagner keeps things within the walls. But leads Peterson and Chekvala are up to the challenge, and we witness front and center the mental anguish the two endure and the slow slide into insanity when there is no one left to trust.
It would be a crime to give away some of the more revealing aspects of their relationship, only to say that rash decisions are made that many in the audience would make under similar circumstances. There are jumps and screams to be had, but Dead Within is more interested in playing mind games. It’s minimalist, to be sure, but it’s accomplished on every level and is befitting much more than its lazy marketing promotes.