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New Review: Special Dead – Campy Fun with Zombies

April 13, 2008

Special Dead is an equal opportunity offender.

At Camp Special Dude, mentally challenged campers and sexually challenged counselors fight off a zombie invasion. What’s great about the film is that it takes a typical slasher/zombie flick and throws in a mix of in your face campy elements, making for a messy fun time.

You can tell the people who made it actually know horror films and so are able to make fun of every part of the genre. One such clue that they knew what they are doing is that the couple hiking near the camp become zombies by an infected water source, one of the lesser shown ways to become a zombie. A moment later we cut to Camp Special Dude as banjo dueling music plays. It’s a hysterical transition.

Dale Stone (Gia Natale) and Melvin (Anthony Rutowicz) are kind of the heart of the film as their “special” relationship builds. In fact, both of their performances are delightful to watch. Machiavelli Stone (Jay Brubaker) and Cassie Hewitt (Amy Wade) provide the hormones as sex craving camp counselors who, along with Stone and Melvin as well as a host of special characters, battle the zombies.

After seeing director Thomas L. Phillip’s other film, Rattle Basket, I was expecting more from the editing and cinematography but for a film with zero budget, its not half bad. Jared Tweedie’s writing style shines through with funny one-liners. I found myself laughing out loud quite a bit of the film and once even saying, “Did he really just say that?!?” Phillip uses typically the same cast and crew in his films and that dynamic shows through in the cohesiveness of the character development and quick banter between the friends.

Here are a few examples of basic horror rules that Special Dead covers:

1. Camp counselors that have sex get killed – except in this they survive (well, sorta)
2. Skimpy clothing on girls that will be killed – again, sorta.
3. Cars missing or don’t work. – Definitely they follow that to a tee.
4. Staying together in a group doesn’t help. Zombies attack anyway.
5. The side players hiding in a closet (or shack) will get killed.
6. The one black guy gets killed first after saying “I’ll be right back”- except in this he survives and kicks some ass.
7. Never go to camp or become a counselor. You’ll be dead by the end of summer –of course the classic rule of horror flicks they do use, but with that “special” twist.
8. When you are in a group, pairing off will get you killed faster.
9. The people who don’t listen get killed. Don’t go off alone, lock yourselves in if something weird.
10. The weird older guy that’s seen it all before. – In this case the camp owner.
11. Bad guitarist who is trying to get in the pants of another counselor..singing around campfire. I dunno, that may not be a typical rule, but it was freaking hysterical.
12. Just when you think it’s over, another zombie pops out.

They break the rules as much as they follow them and that is what makes the film fun. Special Dead is only for those who enjoy horror films. It’s definitely not a feel good film for the family. But if you love cult classics, this is a must see.

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