Dead Weight is a survivor drama that follows protagonist Charlie Russell (Jon Belknap) as he makes his way through the frigid landscapes of Wisconsin in the wake of a viral catastrophe in hopes of finding his girlfriend Samantha (Mary Lindberg). Sharing both directorial and writing duties, long time friends John Pata and Adam Bartlett execute a successful story that’s as much about survival as it is about love.
I liked Dead Weight. It’s an ambitious film that works its budgetary limitations very well and offers a welcomed twist of humility and emotion into a genre that typically settles on sideshows like gore, a gimmicky monster, or simply atmosphere. Dead Weight‘s strength lays in the love story, not the horror of an apocalyptic zombie landscape. It also helps that the frigid, desolate scenes of Wisconsin wilderness are such a gem of a backdrop for a film of Dead Weight‘s ilk.
A product of DIY ethics, easily traced to Bartlett’s magnificent music label Gilead Media and Pata’s other independent feature Better Off Undead, Dead Weight is a labor of love and as such is dedicated to the state of Wisconsin. The film’s faults (if its fair to call them that) lay mostly in subjective matter. I’m not the biggest fan of the film’s protagonist Charlie as his humor is off putting to me and distracts me from the oppressive gloom of Dead Weight‘s story and setting. Some might find this contradiction refreshing in the face of Charlie’s brutal and scathing endeavors, but I don’t think it’s for me (color me serious). But, to fight myself here, Charlie’s character is dynamic and ultimately relatable; key traits to be as a film’s star. Other characters such as Samantha, Meredith, and Thomas, are fleshed out and crucial to the movie’s momentum. The character of Thomas (Aaron Christensen) is a particular favorite of mine as he foils Charlie’s naïveté and is quite sympathetic and well done as the film goes on.
As mentioned earlier, Dead Weight‘s emotional girth and power lays in Charlie and Samantha’s relationship. Through the use of flashbacks and a clever narrative structure the viewer is privy to the couple’s troubled past and understands Charlie’s vehemence in his pursuit. In this way, the story of Dead Weight transcends the often banal and superfluous tropes of love stories found in the horror/thriller genre. This is where Dead Weight is so successful. The depiction of a couple’s relationship flourishing and falling apart is a gripping and easy way to seize the viewer until the film’s perfect ending.
A great film for horror nerds like myself and an accessible take for those unfamiliar with this realm, Dead Weight should be seen by all. Available for purchase here, check out the official site/blog and be hopeful for a screening near you.