Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the horror/thriller DEAD WEST by writer/director Jeff Ferrell. To best describe the story, I will turn to the IMDB plot summary:
“A charismatic serial killer embarks on a cross country road trip in search of true love.”
“I think…I think I finally found her. I mean, last night was absolutely perfect and now, looking at her sleeping next to me, I think I see my entire future. She wakes up looking just as sexy as she did before I fell asleep. As we lie in bed and talk she reaches into a drawer to pull out a pack of cigarettes.
God do I hate cancer sticks.
I wipe the blood off my knife before I step out the door and make sure I did not leave any fingerprints on the knob. Maybe I will have more luck in the next town. I get into my car hoping that today will be the day I find my true love.”
The immediacy of the atmosphere drew me in from the very first scene. There was something about the idea of dingy honky tonks being filmed in such an attraction fashion that I could not help but be engaged. Truly, the cinematography at the start was masterfully pulled off and played perfectly into the arc of the character.
The lead character, known only as The Ladykiller, has an instantly likable charisma about him that masks his bloodstained quest. It is hard to deny the strength of Mr. Sutherland’s performance as he makes his murderous character truly captivating. As the feature hits the back half, he also perfectly portrays the idea of The Ladykiller’s struggle to try to change when he believes he has found love.
What added to the character’s fascination is that he is written as a killer that operates by a code. It is this idea that keeps the audience wondering whether he is in fact a sociopath or just damaged goods. While this might not be as applicable during the run of the mill first half, by the end we have to keep examining the evidence in an effort to figure out his motivations.
In fact, I would argue that the second act of this film is where things really took off as instead of the more stereotypical revenge quest story, we are given a much more interesting character study. This is marked by the appearance of Roxy, a girl so fascinating that she quickly gained my empathy. She made the back half of this movie so much more entertaining just by providing a perfect foil to our love sick serial killer that I truly wanted her to survive.
What I found refreshing about this piece was the fact that even with all the kills, there was very little violence shown to the audience. Throughout the picture we hear how The Ladykiller carves up his victims, yet never do we see in what grotesque shape he leaves their bodies. In a way, it made it a bit easier to like his character as we are not constantly thinking of the corpses he has left in his wake. While this may seem like a bad idea, the finale does leave us wondering where exactly our allegiances should lie because of his overall likability.
All in all, this felt like a Southern fried blast from the past with some truly engaging characters and a stellar second act. That being said, the first half did drag a bit, but after Roxy took to the screen all was made right again. Fans of KALIFORNIA (1993) or DEXTER (2006) will find a lot to love in this feature.
DEAD WEST will be available on DVD on Feb. 7