Greetings, readers. Here we have a bit more of a treat; I first saw THE DEFILED at the Buffalo Screams Horror Film Festival last year, and was completely blown away by it. Writer-director Julian Grant’s digital black-and-white zombie-commentary on the human condition is marvelously deep and moving, with more powerful emotional value then anything I’ve seen come out of Hollywood in the last decade or so.
Meet Yar (Brian Shaw), our hero. Yar is a zombie, and not a particularly bright one — when we first meet him, he attacks his reflection in a stream. Between Brian Shaw’s facial features and the costuming and make-up, he’s a dead ringer (haha) for Bill Hinzman from the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Yar lives in a sickened future — the whole world poisoned, and most of the human population turned into flesh-eating zombies. Both the undead and the living operate under a strict “survival of the fittest” mentality.
Yar lives in the woods with his pregnant wife, a teenage daughter and a fairly-feral son. While foraging, Yar and his son come across a body in a tent — a body in a HAZMAT suit, surrounded by containers bearing radiation warning stickers. Alas, as zombies, Yar and his clan don’t think so well. Yar grabs a bottle of booze for himself, and drags the body back to his family’s encampment for dinner. While his family feeds, Yar kicks back with a well-deserved brewski.
Soon, the poisonous flesh they’d consumed kills Yar’s entire family, leaving him all alone. As his wife is dying, Yar helps her deliver their child. With the infant in his arms, Yar sets off to find a new place to live. Along the way he rescues a Human woman (Kathleen Lawlor) from a pair of infected ghouls. A bond of trust begins to form between Yar and the woman as they search for a place to live.
It’s damned hard to create an engrossing, thoughtful drama in a full-color film replete with dialogue. To do it in black and white (well, pale blue-tone), with no dialogue whatsoever — save for stray zombiferous grunts and groans, screams and wailing — well, let’s just say that writer-director Julian Grant had an uphill battle in making THE DEFILED, but he made it work. I’ll admit, going into this the first time I had my doubts as to whether an arthouse zombie film was possible, but it’s definitely proved its mettle. DEFILED is a game-changer for zombie films; proof that zombies can still be used as a tool of moral instruction, as more than just a means of throwing sheep intestines at the camera.
Grant clearly took a lot of inspiration from Romero’s original zombie film, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, with his color palette, make-up design and sense of encroaching chaos. And much like Romero’s film, THE DEFILED is a story of the breaking down of social order — in this case, as much among zombies as among the living. We see Yar’s family disintegrate and his struggle to survive and provide for his child. Both films leave the viewer with the question, “Who is the real monster?”
In short, see THE DEFILED. You’ll be glad you did.