It seems like every other horror movie that comes out these days is a zombie film of one type or another. This speaks to their popularity, or at least what used to be their popularity, but within this onslaught of films it is has become hard to distinguish the good from the bad. Too many keep it safe by relying on the same tired tropes that have been a part of the genre for years. It is a rare film that is able to distinguish itself from the herd, and innovate rather than merely replicate. ‘Dead Within’ is such a film, though it is not without some reliance on the aforementioned tired tropes. It is a brilliant, innovative, yet (unfortunately) a marginally boring take on the zombie film.
Kim (Amy Cale Peterson) and Mike (Dean Chekvala) are a married couple that have taken refuge in a remote, solitary cabin for six months after a devastating outbreak. Time has taken its toll on their supplies, and on their relationship. Faced with almost inevitable death, either due to hunger or the deadly zombies lurking outside, Kim begins to break down. The secrets and regrets of how the couple has survived for six months become her waking nightmares, vividly reminding her of the costs she has paid to stay alive. Mike has taken to going out into the unknown remnants of near-by houses to search for supplies. The burden of survival has caused him to adopt an attitude of outliving the threat rather than confronting it face on.
This is more of a psychological thriller than a straight-up horror film. Much of the film is spent exploring the loneliness and neuroses that would inevitably fester in such a survival scenario. Amy Cale Peterson gives a fantastic performance as Kim, evolving the character’s insanity in a meticulous yet believable fashion.
‘Dead Within’ is not just another zombie movie. It is a novel and dark tale affixed within the world of a zombie outbreak that explores aspects of such a scenario that other films haven’t even breeched. There is not a lot of action in the film, or zombies for that matter, and this will likely turn off some audiences. This is a shame though because ‘Dead Within’ is a well written and imagined addition to the zombie pantheon that (hopefully) will open doors for future films to take up similar themes.