Indie Flix: Dead Weight (2012)

Will Charlie learn to let go?

Dead Weight is a feature length independent horror film from the midwest, and  I am always interested in midwest home grown horror flicks.  Produced by Head Trauma Productions, written and directed by Adam Bartlett and John Pata; it was filmed in central Wisconsin which provides farms, forests and other vast snowy landscapes as backdrops.  The filmmakers even work the muting effect of the snow into the film and have to have done some major foley work with all of the external scenes.  The score is good enhancing the foreboding quality of the film.

The protagonist of the film is Charlie Russell, played by Joe Belknap, is a likable if apathetic young man from Toledo, Ohio.  His girlfriend Samantha gets an internship in Wisconsin and tension grows between them as the distance grows.  The internship turns into a job offer straining the relationship even more.  One day Charlie slept in and was casually reading one of his comic books when Sam calls and tells him of all hell breaking loose.  Major cities were under an assault by mobs of strangely acting people.  Charlie picks Wasau as the meet up point for Sam and quickly gets his things together and starts out on his journey.  We follow Charlie through several changes from apathetic youth to heroic youth.  From determined heroism to selfish betrayer.  By the end of the film the viewer may find themselves of one of three minds.  I felt disgust, then sympathy, then both.  Finally I felt empty.  The story is powerful and devastating.

 Do we see the throngs of undead or infected attacking people in the streets?  No, but we get to hear them.  Is there a lot of blood and gore?  No, but there is enough for the story.  What we do get is a decently acted character driven story placed over the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse.  We don’t see the fall of civilization but we see the survivors picking through the remains.  

Thomas (Aaron Christensen) and Charlie (Joe Belknap)

Surprisingly good performances in this film.  Joe Belknap is not the strongest of the performers in the film but gives a capable if somewhat strained performance. Especially noteworthy are Aaron Christensen and Steve Herson.  Christensen is convincing as the determined Thomas who has developed a fatherly concern for the well being and survival of the group.  Herson plays another traveller who meets the group after an encounter with bandits.  His genuine friendliness and generosity finally winning Thomas and company over.   

The survivors must face a blustery winter.

There are many things going for Dead Weight.  It serves well technically.  It is also well written and well acted.  The film maintains the sense of impending doom while maintaining a ray of hope.  The group does not encounter many of the zombies but there is always the sense that they are always just behind or around the next bend.  A pleasant surprise is how well a series of reverse flashbacks play out.  They start with Charlie talking to Sam during the crises and play all the way to the wedding rehearsal where they first meet.

Check it out if you can.  Dead Weight should fare well on the festival circuit and I wish the folks at Head Trauma Productions success with this film and future projects.

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