One of the many struggles of independent horror filmmaking is finding a voice to attract your target audience, whether it’s devoting whatever budget you have to a bloodier body count or opting for a quiet, atmospheric tension as a result of limited resources. However, from the oversaturated opening credits onward, THE DEAD INSIDE prides itself on defying expectations, offering surprises within its low-budget boundaries that make it a unique and satisfying genre offering.

Just from examining the cover of Monarch Home Video’s DVD,
THE DEAD INSIDE could be seen as one of the countless imitators of HELLRAISER
or THE EXORCIST, but it’s actually closer in tone to a DR. HORRIBLE’S
SING-ALONG BLOG for the horror crowd. The film follows two struggling artists
whose lives fall into turmoil when the presence of a spirit comes between them.
But within this basic narrative, the audience is treated to dryly comedic
zombie fantasies, surprisingly catchy musical numbers and black-and-white
flashbacks to the spirit’s previous life, courtesy of the strange and
determined writing and direction of Travis Betz.

Front and center stand Sarah Lassez and Dustin Fasching, who
tackle multiple roles in the film and project a level of charm and devotion to
the material on which its success hinges. Lassez is a revelation as Fiona, a
writer of horror fiction who finds herself suffering severe writer’s block and
then becoming possessed by a lonely and violent ghost, Emily. Lassez hits every
beat perfectly, impressively bouncing between self-mutilation and vibrant
musical performances and retaining an inherent charisma even during her most
repulsive scenes. Fasching is equally as impressive as Wes, a Gothic
photographer relegated to dissatisfying wedding assignments; his comedic chops
are very much in evidence early in the movie, which makes his intense
performance in the dramatic third act an unexpected wonder. On top of that,
Fasching and Lassez are particularly great in the zombie fantasy sequences, the
strongest of which gets the film off to a hilarious running start.

THE DEAD INSIDE’s low budget does sometimes constrain the
overall efficiency of the final product, particularly when it comes to sporadic
audio problems, yet these issues never become glaring. Betz and his
collaborator/cinematographer Shannon Hourigan mostly utilize the film’s low
budget for the better, keeping almost all of the action in the apartment and
letting the two leads shine in their multiple roles. Betz refuses to compromise
his vision, even for the sake of production value, although at no point does
the film look like anything besides a labor of love. Special credit should also
be given to Michael Brake and Joel Van Vliet for their original music, which
complements the material more often than it stretches to meet the film’s needs.

For fans of horror/comedy and Betz’s previous LO and JOSHUA,
THE DEAD INSIDE is a gratifying, rarely predictable experience that works as a
musical, relationship drama and horror film simultaneously. It definitely has
the potential to land a crossover audience, playing like a dark opera that is
as likely to please the theater crowd as much as any hardcore horror fan.
Additionally, the DVD’s special features aren’t too shabby; they include a
deleted musical sequence that’s catchy, but a bit too revealing for its
original place in the film, a short making-of featurette that showcases the
lighthearted but professional environment on the set, a basic trailer and two
commentary tracks. These bounce between middling and entertaining, especially
the actors’ commentary, on which Fasching and Betz engage in mischievous (and
possibly drunken) repartee.

MOVIE: alt


by: Ken Hanley on: 2013-01-08 22:48:30

About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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