REVIEW: 3 Hours till Dead
– By Kriss Pickering
The zombie sub-genre must be one of the most saturated there is. It seems like at least one zombie or zom-com film is released onto the horror thirsty public every week, with varying degrees of quality. One of the latest is Jason Mills’ 3 Hours till Dead, a Canadian made film released by Sector5. But where does it rank on the zombie league table? Is it battling it out for the title with the like of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead or fighting it out to avoid relegation with the likes of River of the Dead? Well, read on and find out!
3 Hours till Dead introduces us to brothers Joe and Stu, who along with best friend Mikey, his girlfriend Kylie and Joe’s girlfriend Sonya, take a trip into the back of beyond for a camping trip. After a few weeks, it’s time for the group to go home, but unbeknownst to them the world has gone to shit and the population turned into bloodthirsty, undead killing machines, but with a lifespan of only three hours! When one of the group get bitten, the survivors have a race against time to get out alive!
3 Hours till Dead is very much the baby of writer/director Jason Mills. He basically had a hand in everything to do with the film, from editing all the way through to the set design. You can feel this throughout the film as everything just seems to fit together nicely. The script is nice and tight (although isn’t in keeping with the marketing synopsis, but more on that later) if not a little cliched, and the characters are well fleshed out and defined.
The cinematography is lovely at times and smoothly keeps up with the faster paced action sequences. There is the usual issues you get with low budget film however, like certain shots being held a little too long to flesh things out, but they can be excused.
While the story can be a little cliched at times, the characters are anything but stereotypical. One of the lead characters, Joe (played by Vladimir Zaric) is an ex soldier that suffers from PTSD. But while other writers would pen him as a classic flag waving, chest pumping G.I. Joe-esque marine, Mills has made him into a deserter who displays a cowardly side. This gives Zaric plenty to get his teeth into and he does a more than decent job with the role.
Of the set of the cast, Chris Walters’ portrayal of Mikey as the comic relief is solid, but again the character isn’t the usual practical joke wielding character that you usually get, which is refreshing. Where things do go a little more cliched is with the character Sonya (Marisa Crockett), who goes through the classic horror journey from trembling nonentity to bad arsed all action hero. Performance wise though, everyone does a decent job, barring a few lines of awkwardly delivered dialogue…
Maybe one of the most impressive parts of the film however, are the practical effects. I didn’t actually notice this myself on first viewing, but Mills made good use of his budget by spending it on the zombies that were at the front of the scene, and saved money by not really making the ones at the back (and keeping them out of focus). The money saved was obviously well spent as the zombies we do see looked great and the gore was plentiful.
Unfortunately, that’s where the positives end, I’m afraid. The film had a problem with the audio where it kept dropping out for a few seconds. I thought at first it was my disk, but upon further investigation others experienced it too, which was disappointing. If I were to spend money on a film, I at least expect the technical aspects to be on point.
Also, despite the actual script being put together well, there were still a few issues. The biggest one was the inconsistencies with the zombies. Some of them were lightening quick (think 28 Days Later) and others were slow, classic zombies. But there were no explanations about this, which was confusing. The other thing was the 3 hour lifespan. Despite being the title, it was never really explained why they only live for 3 hours and if I remember correctly only two actually died on screen. To say it all seemed like a bit of an afterthought would be an understatement.
But to sum it up, I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. When I saw the title and had a browse at the synopsis I rolled my eyes and thought, not another. But I’m glad to be proven wrong. The film isn’t perfect by any means, but as horror fans we are more than used to that, right? So if you are looking for something to pass a few hours, give it a go. Hopefully, like me, you will be pleasantly surprised!