The IMDb credits listing for Dead West lists Douglas Myers as the writer of this cross-genre film. Not too surprising is the fact that there is no listing for a director. The DVD that I purchased gives Myers’ name as both writer and director. This film appears to be his first venture in the film world. I would not be surprised to see it as his last.
I’m sure that first time producer Lisa Hilton must have thought this was a good idea for a film. Looking at the plot on paper it should work. But it doesn’t. Using stock 1995 footage of Old Tuscon Studios burning and then showing the burnt, gutted buildings was the most authentic and exciting part of the film.
The film stars Jasen Wade a young actor who looks like a cross between Brad Pitt and a young Chuck Norris. Unfortunately his acting skills don’t resemble either actor. Although he does come close to the young Chuck Norris in his performance. Just imagine how wooden Chuck Norris was when he first started out and then multiply it by two. Jasen looks good as Johnny Dust, the films main protagonist, but only from a distance and with his mouth closed.
But then I am being a bit unfair to the rest of the cast. Their performances were just as wooden and unbelievable. Before I start pointing out their shortcomings though, I’d better outline the plot.
Johnny Dust is a western actor who has never risen higher than the film’s title that he is in. His slender to non-existent back story indicates that he was friends with “The Kid” an actor who was ‘big’ in westerns. Played by William R. Scott, he is the best thing in the film (apart from the stock footage of Old Tuscon burning) and he’s not even listed on IMDb.
Johnny works as a ‘stunt’ cowboy working at Old Tuscon. He is divorced and running around with Gloria Valenzuela (Angélica Celaya) and their relationship is not too stable as she is using him to further her career. That she thinks Johnny can further her career shows that she is obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed. Old Tuscon as a tourist attraction is not doing well financially and the only filming that takes place is for local television commercials. The town gets taken over by a big corporation that specializes in theme parks.
The company representative explains that they are going to turn the old western town into a ghost town theme park and make use of the broken down ‘Haunted Dutchman Mine ride.’
The first part of the film was boring, slow, amateurish and cheap. The soundtrack sounded like old non-copyright music lifted from an 1970’s television show. It does not help the film one bit, but having said that, I don’t think anything could have helped the film.
The second part of the film, where the company opens up an old Indian burial jar and releases an evil spirit, does pick up a bit. We finally get to meet the company owner who looks like the great-great grandson of Nosferatu. Gloria is turned into a vampire along with the company rep.
The ‘new’ themed town will open up on Halloween and the unsuspecting public are to be the vampire’s and ghoul’s midnight snack. The funniest part of the film is when the editor shows several cut shots of peoples feet entering the mine ride. One woman is wearing a very distinctive pair of shoes. By the amount of times we see the shoes, she is either going in and out of the mine repeatedly, or the editor and director failed to notice that they were using the same piece of film to indicate a huge crowd of people were going into the mine.
Johnny realises that he must stop them and he takes a silver cross blesses it with holy water and turns it into a small amount of silver bullets. Unfortunately as he is an actor playing a cowboy and not the real deal, his aim is so poor that he places most of his shots on the surrounding area and not his intended victims. He must kill all the vampires and ghouls to save his ex-wife and daughter who are in the mine.
Johnny does manage to save the day, but he dies in the process.
This film is something of an anomaly for me. I generally love independent films. Dead West is indeed an independent film. Unfortunately it was so bad that when the second half of the film actually reached the grand heights of mediocre, I didn’t care. It was a case of ‘way too little, way too late.’
I do hope that Jasen Wade’s resemblance to Pitt and Norris doesn’t stop him from working. He needs as much work as he can get to help him learn his craft better. Any more films like Dead West and he can star in the film Dead Careerwritten and directed by Douglas Myers.
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