Living Dead Lock Up (2005) 1 brainhalf brain

Digital filming and editing have done wonders for independent filmmaking. It's possible to do things on a limited budget that could never be done before, giving films that extra something that keeps them from looking too much like home movies. In Living Dead Lock Up, writers/directors Mario Xavier and Mike Hicks obviously know how to use digital effects, but they ultimately tend to overdo it. The story gets lost in the midst of all the visuals, and I would have liked to have seen more characterization and dialog. I know, it's a zombie movie. How much characterization and dialog could I want? I'll get to that below.

That's not to say I couldn't follow what was going on. The story is set in a prison where there was some sort of occult shenanigans going on back in the 1920s, resulting in several deaths and also several missing bodies. In the present day, a convict, Jared (Mario Xavier), is sentenced to prison there. Along with getting accustomed to prison life, including a fight scene that reminded me a little bit of the fight between Paul Newman and George Kennedy in Cool Hand Luke, Jared also begins hearing rumors of something horrible in the basement of the prison. (It also appears that the blood from Jared's fight has a hand in getting things moving after it drips on the ground where the zombies are buried.) While Jared's girlfriend on the outside (Natalie Morales) is investigating the past of the prison, the zombies in the basement break out.

The budget for this film was very small, and Xavier and Hicks came up with creative ways to work around that. Their zombies looked pretty good, and they used combinations of close zooms and different camera angles to hide the fact that they had very limited sets. They also didn't make the mistake of having their characters sit around jabbering for most of the film, which is certainly cheap to shoot, but ends up boring the viewer. But there needs to be enough jabbering to make you feel like you know the characters, and it felt like the film barely scratched the surface of just three people: Jared, his girlfriend, and Jared's Bible-thumping cellmate, Miguel (Miguel Angel Novo). The rest of the film focused on action sequences and digitally enhanced scenes of the zombies waking up and invading the prison. While these were entertaining, too much of just them left me just wanting the story to move forward.

Xavier and Hicks had interesting ideas, and they certainly knew how to use the resources they had to their best advantage, but in the end I would have liked something with a better developed story.