Director – Corbin Bernsen
Cast – Bill Mosely, Patricia Tallman, David Moscow, Navid Negahban, Corbin Bernsen, Josh Feinman, Anthony Ray Parker, Haley Pullos, Nicholas Guilak, Herzl Tobey, Lakshmi Manchu
Release Year – 2009
Reviewed by John of the Dead
When I first read of this film my initial though was “this is a ripoff of Pontypool(both film and relative novel)”, and for the most part that is true. Debuting one year after the well-received but under-appreciated Pontypool and carrying a near identical plot, it is obvious that this Kenny Yekkel story shares heavily similarities with the previously mentioned film. However, thanks to some unique ideas and fantastic usage of horror veteran Bill Mosely I found Dead Air to be a fun watch that suffers from many faults, but in the end delivers a unique and seldom-used storyline for the genre, regardless of Pontypool.
Radio host Logan Burnhardt(Bill Mosely) has made a name for himself by stoking the fire with odd issues and then ridiculous those who speak their minds, but his own mind is tested when a terrorist attack at a local sports stadium turns the city’s residents into maniacal killers that stop at nothing to kill those unfortunate enough to cross their paths. With impending room waiting just outside his studio, Logan is forced to hole up and hope that his pleas to his family get through to them as he uses the airwaves to serve his listeners and help they stay away from the infected, but when the terrorists reach his building and make their way inside he learns of the true meaning behind the attacks, and that he will play directly into the terrorists’ plan.
Given I loved the atmosphere and setting for Pontypool, I enjoyed the atmosphere and setting for this film as well. If you know me then you know that I love nowhere-to-run scenarios, and being in a building surrounded by homicidal maniacs counts as such a scenario for me. I enjoyed the uniqueness of the film’s storyline involving a radio host forced to take cover and use the airwaves/media as his only way of knowing what is going on outside the studio walls, as well as a means to help those suffering from the chaos. Logan Burnhardt is well-written and comes off as brash and a bit self-righteous at first and then slowly realizing that his rhetoric doesn’t mean anything when the world around him is crashing down. We get several other characters thrown into the mix, and for the most part they compliment the plot although none of them were really used to full potential. In a sense this film is half horror and half action, with the horror element being the infected and the action element being the terrorists and how they were used. I honestly was not a huge fan of both these elements being so separate from one another, and it was simply how they were used in this film. I never felt them to be cohesive despite the fact that they were each going on at the same time as one another, and you can chalk that down to execution of both writing and direction. Towards the end of the film we are thrown for a slight loop when the lead terrorist makes Logan aware of his true intentions behind the bio-terror attack, and from then on out we are given banter that I expect to be love/hate given its dealings with pro/anti-Islam and pro/anti-America. Surprisingly enough, despite the film’s political statements it ends on a weak note.
While known mainly as an actor for his roles in The Dentist, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Major League II, Corbin Bernsen directs this film, and while it is obvious that the guy does not have much directing experience his overall output was fairly positive. The budget is low, and it shows with the sets used in this piece. While I loved the gloomy and isolated sets in Pontypool, I did not feel the same way regarding the sets used in this film. It could be the fact that they simply were not interesting, or it could be that they were good enough and Bernsen’s cinematography was lacking in quality, which is true regardless. I really wish that the infected action would have been better executed as it would have definitely increased the film’s enjoy ability and rating, but instead we were given decent execution with bleak gore, which is not a requirement but would have helped make up for the lacking execution. Thankfully, Bill Mosely(The Devil’s Rejects, House of 1,000 Corpses, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) does what he usually does with the numerous low-budget films he stars in and delivers a fantastic performance that shows just how versatile this actor is. He does not portray the usual kooky characters that made him popular in the genre but instead one that delivers a more serious persona…but with a little bit of crazy in there.
Overall, Dead Air is a mostly-positive film that obviously has its own faults but gives an interesting story that comes complimented with good execution a few favorable elements. This film is not incredible, nor will I necessarily recommend it, but it is better than the 5-rating I initially wanted to give it, thus I am awarding it a generous 6-rating.