Written by Diane Tillis
Deadland is about a man searching for his wife five years after an apocalyptic event has changed the world.
Deadland is an independent post-apocalyptic film that also incorporates a love story, action/adventure qualities, social/political themes, and supernatural elements. Sean Kalos (Gary Weeks) was trying to return to his wife in Georgia when the nuclear strikes of World War III began. Five years later the United States is divided into thirteen provinces, and brutal soldiers uphold martial law. Sean is still searching in Georgia for his wife. He refuses to give up hope that she may still be alive. Sean discovers a coded message from a soldier’s abandoned backpack that lists several female names including his wife’s. Aided by a slightly psychotic friend, Jax (Brian Tee), Sean follows the clue.
Along the way the team barley escapes the brutal soldiers. They encounter members of the Underground and learn the provinces are prostitution camps. Sean and Jax also discover the truth about the nuclear plague. It was said to have infected every survivor. Some people develop supernatural abilities as a side effect. Other people will die from the plague within weeks unless they have the antidote which comes in pill form. Sean discovers that the antidote was found in the blood of particular survivors. He is lead to believe the antidote is derived from the list of female names Sean discovered earlier in the film. Sean and Jax travel the wilderness to learn the truth about the nuclear plague, find Sean’s wife, and try to survive.
Deadland is a ‘don’t judge a DVD by its cover’ case. The DVD cover art depicts a destroyed city with Gary Weeks’ character standing in the forefront holding a shotgun as if ready for war. The actual film is nothing like the cover art. The majority of this post-apocalyptic film takes place in the wilderness of Georgia with a few flashback sequences taking place in modern day Los Angeles. There are no destroyed cities, just rickety shacks surrounded by tall trees. On the cover Gary Weeks’ character looks like a hardened soldier. In the film, Weeks’ rarely holds a weapon. However, he will stay and fight if it will lead to answers about his wife.
The video aspect ratio is 1.78:1. If there is one positive aspect of Deadland I can remark on is the video quality. The scenes are split between urban Los Angeles and the Georgia wilderness. The Los Angeles scenes are bright with crisp colors. The wilderness shots are tinted gray, creating a desolate atmosphere. The contrast and sharpness of the wilderness shots are excellent.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The audio quality fails to deliver. Since the film is mostly dialog, I expect the DVD volume level to be higher for dialog-heavy scenes. When listening to the audio on surround sound speakers, I noticed that dialog was often overwhelmed by the background sounds or soundtrack. I ended up turning off the surround sound speakers and reverting back to the television monitor’s speakers. However, I often had to turn the volume up on my television monitor to be able to hear the dialog.
The director and actor commentary is with Gary Weeks (writer/actor/producer), Damon O’Sheen (director), and Brian Tee (actor/producer). As you listen to the commentary, you begin to realize that Deadland was truly a collaborative project. Weeks, O’Sheen, and Tee talk about the script, creating a post-apocalyptic world in Georgia, and the amazing crew. The commentary is like listening to three old friends get together to reminisce the good ol’ days.
A behind the scenes featurette called Crossing into the Deadlands delves into the films’ creative team and their inspiration. They also discuss everything from set design, the heat of summer in South Georgia, costume designs, on-set injuries, and singing about chiggers.
Deadland’s theatrical trailer is also included in the DVD’s special features.
I really tried to like this film. It has won a few awards at film festivals for its originality and style. However, I was just bored the entire time. There are too many subplots to keep everything straight. There was nothing unusual about this post-apocalyptic film that distinguished it from others: martial law takes over, disease spreads, people divide into factions or become loners, and food is difficult to find. Sound familiar? I suppose the representation of women in Deadland does stand out, but even then not by much. There is very little in the way of action, most scenes are dialog-heavy and lead to nowhere. I would say give it a chance if you are mildly interested. You may like it more than I do.