I’m not even conflicted about Special Dead, but I want to be. Overall I found the film to be in poor taste, something that’s actually kind of an achievement, as I typically thrive on things that are in poor taste. Special Dead has a large number of things going for it. First and foremost, it’s a zombie flick. But other than that it’s also low-budget, being filmed with an estimated $300,000 budget. But the weak characters, awful actors and insulting view of the mentally and physically disabled was just too much a turn off for me to get into it.
The film opens with a pair of hikers, one of whom suffers from turrets syndrome finding a cave while looking for a water source. After drinking from a contaminated pond inside of a sealed off cave the pair transform into zombies. A short distance away at Camp Special run by Cameron “Snuff” Stone (Larrs Jackson), the newest campers arrive and are greeted by the worst camp counselors in the history of horror films, Machiavelli Stone (Jason Brubaker), Cassie Hewitt (Amy Wade), Harley Jacquette (Haneka Haynes), and Machiavelli’s disabled sister Dale (Gia Franzia). The campers are composed of blatant stereotypes, covering just about the gambit of offensive caricatures with the most likable being Todd Slater (Thomas L. Phillips) and May Littlejohns (April Wade). The least like-able being Eriq Eldorado (Jah Shams), an inner city thug who got on the wrong bus. The camp is attacked, forcing the counselors and campers to fight for their lives against a growing zombie horde…
I could have liked this movie, had they just pulled back on the stereotypes. Maybe spent some of the budget for the actors to meet real people with disabilities? I understand that this is supposed to be played for jokes. Heck the tag line is, Sometimes heroes ride the short bus and this would make more sense were the campers a bigger focus. Sadly it felt as more of the films focus is on Machiavelli getting laid, and not developing any of the characters beyond two-dimensional cardboard cut outs.
The biggest offense when it comes to stereotypes isn’t even the campers. It’s Jah Shams character Eriq, a loud mouth street thug with a record. His character is by far the most disposable bringing nothing to the plot. His character has no purpose being the film and all of his scenes come off as padding to fill out the movies run time. I would have rather seen that screen time used in developing Dale and Todd’s relationship or Machiavelli and Dale’s relationship with their father. Something the film seems to forget all about.
I do have to commend the special effects as the zombies were well done. Also the death scenes were also enjoyable and well executed. I also enjoyed the setting of the camp as it reminds me of 80’s slashers like Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp. Special Dead has a great classic horror feel, but stops fostering that rather quickly in favor of bad jokes.
Final thoughts, honestly this film just wasn’t for me and that is more about me, than it is on this film. I just found the attitudes of the counselors to be far too offensive and mean-spirited with Machiavelli being the worst. It felt at times as though the film-makers had open contentment for those with special needs. I feel this film could have been better had they made the campers more authentic, not just a walking punch line. I do have to mention Larrs Jackson, who somehow manages to be funny and like-able, as well as Gia Franzia and Thomas L. Phillips. Who play the only campers that come off as even slightly like-able, 4/10 (6/10 if I wanted to be objective, which I don’t).