Dead Men Walking (2005) 1 brain1 brainhalf brain

With the phrase "Dead Man Walking" as well known as it is, it was inevitable that someone would make a zombie film with this title set in a jail. It was probably also inevitable that the jail would have a power-mad guard captain, a convict who's not really that bad but got himself into deep trouble anyway, and hardened felons who enjoy raping all the new inmates. What's not inevitable is the ability to take these stock characters and turn out a movie that's still entertaining, but I have to say that director Peter Mervis does just that.

The plot in it's essence contains nothing surprising: a convict infected by a zombie bite (Brandon Stacy) is brought into a high-security prison, where he involuntarily infects a few people before he dies, revives, and is finally put out of commission. The infection quickly grows out of control, and the remaining survivors have to figure out a way to escape to safety. It's really easy to get infected in this film, since it follows the transmittal method in 28 Days Later where you can get infected even by getting a tiny drop of infected fluid in your mouth. Since one of the symptoms in this movie is the sudden projectile vomiting of blood, anyone standing in the way of this is probably done for.

It's unfortunate for the characters in this film that an infected person starts showing physical symptoms well before he turns into a zombie, giving him ample opportunity to walk around vomiting on people before they realize that he's not just sick, but should be put down. I use the term "he" without fear of appearing chauvinist, since there's only one major female character in this film, CDC scientist Samantha Beckett (played by Bay Bruner). Beckett has come to the jail to examine the infected convict, but arrives too late to stop the infection from spreading. Once the situation in the prison grows out of control, she teams up with convicted burglar Johnny (Griff Furst), and the two of them try to make it out of the jail alive.

Furst actually bills himself as Brick Firestone in this film, which irks me a little. I'll agree with him that the quality of the acting did a lot to raise the level of this film, but using a fake name tells me that he didn't really believe in this project, and man, if only he knew about the absolute dreck of films out there in the zombie film genre. Besides, with the sources of film information available to the public these days, using a fake name doesn't protect your career, it just makes you look arrogant.

If I've convinced you that now you have to watch this as soon as possible, I've oversold it. It's not a great film, but it is a good film, taking an idea that could have been truly forgettable and making something out of it that delivers the goods. Zombie fans will be satisfied, and non–zombie fans will be reminded why they don't like zombie films.