Deadline (2002) Movie Review

I guess it was only a matter of time before the rest of Europe gave in and offered up their own version of a zombie movie. The Italians nearly killed off the genre in the ’70s by saturating the market, even though they did manage to create a master of the genre in Lucio Fulci. The Japanese have become infatuated with zombies of late, giving the world “Wild Zero”, “Junk”, and “Stacy” — all low-budget endeavors, unfortunately. Hong Kong has offered up some zombies (“Bio Zombie” and “Bio Cops”), as well as the Australians (“Undead”). Now we can add Jonathan Kray and the Dutch to the list with “Deadline”, a 20-minute short shot on digital video.

“Deadline” stars Anjali Taneja as intrepid field reporter Jenny, who along with her two-man crew stumbles into an office building that belongs to some game designers. In the building they find Mike (Cas Jansen), who although is badly hurt and bleeding, manages to tell the story of how his employees, while trying to finish a violent video game, got bit by mosquitoes and became zombies. And oh yeah, the zombies are still in the building.

As the short begins, we’re introduced to one of those convenient news reports that provide exposition by way of bad actors pretending to be news anchors. Here, we are told about an explosion at a chemical plant and the widespread appearance of mosquitoes. As the short progresses, it’s revealed that the mosquito infestation, in combination with the spread of toxic chemicals, has created a lethal menace. With their tails glowing green (in an ode to “Re-Animator”, apparently) the mosquitoes are making zombies out of whomever they bite.

Running at a scant 20 minutes, there’s obviously little characterization to be found. Jenny stumbles across Mike, he tells his story, and soon the zombies are attacking. Throw in a hapless security guard and we have a short showcase of blood, guts, and some minor CGI work. Even though the budget was obviously low, there is some impressive computer work here. The office building, seen from a distance, is all CGI; there’s also a pull back shot that makes up the short’s final scene showing a CGI cityscape. You won’t mistake “Deadline’s” effects work for a George Lucas movie, but they are nevertheless impressive given the obvious constraints.

Watching “Deadline”, I couldn’t help but recall the recently viewed “Coronado”. Here you have a movie where special effects enhance the story, whereas with “Coronado” the entire movie was nothing more than an excuse for special effects. The difference is startling.

Speaking of full-length movies, I could easily see “Deadline” as a 90-minute feature. The 20 minutes here can be made into a feature length film’s first act. Some extra scenes could be shot to flesh out reporter Jenny and her crew, especially Sjaak (Dorus van der Meer), who shows obvious shock that Lois Lane-wannabe Jenny would rather interview the dying Mike than immediately call an ambulance for the poor sap. The film’s minor exposition, using the news report conceit, is quick and efficient, passing off the needed information without effort.

To make a 90-minute movie there wouldn’t necessarily have to be a lot of changes. The biggest change would mean adding more employees to the company or make the office building house more than just the game company in order to give the film more victims and potential zombies. Throw in the reporter and her crew as they are and we have ourselves a fine little Last Stand in a Haunted House movie. Aside from the shuffling zombies, there are of course the glowing mosquitoes to provide extra tension and suspense. Who hasn’t found it extremely difficult to swat those little buggers as they circle you patiently looking for the first opportunity to bite down?

Jonathan Kray (director)
CAST: Cas Jansen …. Mike
Anjali Taneja …. Jenny
Willem Emo …. Ed
Dorus van der Meer …. Sjaak

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