Shatter Dead (1994) 1 brainhalf brain

One thing I can say about Shatter Dead is that the portrayal of the undead was really well done. Pale, expressionless, awkward... no, wait. That was the main character, Susan. And most of the rest of the cast, actually, undead or not. It wasn't for lack of opportunity; Susan (played by Stark Raven) is placed in a variety of situations, where her emotions run the gamut over fear, anger, wariness, horror, and lustfulness, and she pretty much has the same expression for them all. She might have been happy in there somewhere, too, but it's hard to tell.

Shatter Dead apparently got some kind of film festival award, and I will admit that it has many interesting ideas, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The film opens with what appears to be a sex scene between two women, until one of them reveals herself to be an angel by unfurling her wings. We would have no idea what this scene is about if it weren't for the DVD box, which states that the movie opens with a woman being impregnated by the Angel of Death. Since the angel in the scene is obviously played by a female actress, I can only assume that director/writer Scooter McCrae is using the idea that angels are androgynous, although I had always thought that the idea was that angels were sexless, rather than having traits of both sexes. Anyway, the androgeneity is confirmed by another angel later on, at least in my mind, although the exact purpose of this angel in the movie is unclear as well, and the box provides no enlightenment. But I digress.

The impregnation results in the cessation of death. People who are supposed to die do so no longer, and the world is slowly becoming populated with zombies. This is an interesting twist. The zombies retain all their faculties and memories, but their presence makes people uncomfortable, so they are mostly societal outcasts. Apparently there is also a growing part of the dead population that want to kill everyone, led by a mad preacher. A few people decide that they want to stay young forever, but not be outcast, so they kill themselves in secret and then continue with their normal lives.

Susan is trying to get back home to her boyfriend, and encounters various situations along the way that bring out these ideas. Although they hold promise, the acting and script fail to deliver most of the time, and it seems like the director is inserting more sexuality than is strictly necessary, perhaps in compensation. Another theme he seems to be exploring is that of the boundaries between life, death, and love (sort of like a poor man's Cemetery Man), a point rammed home with a couple of scenes involving a handgun that I won't describe.

Overall, I think this film comes out to be mostly wasted potential. When you can pick out the themes from the amidst the ruinous acting and production, they are worth some thought, but you will probably be pretty unimpressed in the meantime.