The aptly named Dead Within is not about zombies, but about survivors struggling to keep their humanity alive during the aftermath of the apocalypse. Isolated and low on resources, Mike (played by Dean Chekvala) heads outside his fortified cabin each day to find supplies. He leaves behind his lover and the mother of his child Kim (portrayed by Amy Kale Peterson). We watch as guilt, isolationism, and paranoia slowly consume Kim’s mind.
Chekvala and Peterson are fabulous together, but Peterson’s solo performances in many of the scenes were outstanding. I’m sure there are those that think the performances and the story were too slow paced for their tastes. And yes, this movie follows the route of I Am Legend rather than Return of the Living Dead, but I prefer zombie films that show very few zombies. In fact, my favorite ones are more about the survivors anyways.
If you are looking for a mainstream zombie movie, Dead Within will disappoint you. This story uses the infection merely as a plot device to set up the situations the characters are in. It really doesn’t come into the foreground of the story. As such, the movie should appeal to viewers that want to see a film looking at the psychological effects of being alone. There may be scenes that will even have you guessing if they are real or imagined.
Ultimately, I looked at Dead Within as a reflection of Kim’s and Mike’s broken relationship told from Kim’s perspective. She sees Mike going out every day and leaving her alone, trapped in the cabin each time. While he is away, she basically passes the time away washing the floor, painting, knitting, and cleaning dishes. When he gets back, she goes through this routine to make herself pretty for him. And there is one scene where Mike comes back, but forgets to find soap. She yells at him that she gave him a list like a nagging wife might. There is another scene where the water stops running, and Mike insists that he will fix it, but never really gets around to it like a husband who would rather do something else he thinks is more important. Additionally, I think the later scenes with Ranger Mark show Kim attacking her very self-esteem, much like someone in a broken relationship would. And then, when she finally leaves the cabin (and metaphorically her relationship with Mike), we see her dancing in the field and enjoying her new sense of freedom.
I give this film a 2.5 out of 5. Some of you will want to watch this a few times. Others will probably only want to watch is once. But certainly, for those of you looking for a survivors’ story instead of a zombie hunt, it’s worth a look.