Dead Air (2009 movie) review…

Dead Air (2009 movie) review after the break…

Dead Air (2009 movie) review…

Oh, Orson Welles… What Hath You Wrought? If you had only skipped over the suggestion to adapt the novel “War of the Worlds” to radio, this world may well be a vastly different place then it is today. Or, most likely, some other schlep would’ve just done something close to it a few years later.

I was waiting for someone to mix the zombie genre with the first-person tenseness of the 1938 broadcast of “War of the Worlds.” Sadly, I’m still waiting.

However, in the meanwhile, we have the movie “Dead Air” to watch. “Dead Air” is a 2009 film that at least attempts to spit in the direction of what would happen if George Romero & Orson Welles ever got liquored up, rented a motel room & intellectually created a baby. Exactly how far that wad of phlegm flies depends on how distracted you get by all the B-movie tackiness.

“Dead Air” centers around ‘shock jock’ Logan Burnhardt who’s brief foray into Art Bell’s territory takes a turn for the worse when paranoid delusions turn into stark realities. A terrorist plot to sabotage sports stadiums succeeds, turning ordinary people into raving lunatics of the “fast zombie” variety. Logan & his motley skeleton crew at the radio station must eventually battle the zombies as well as a terrorist associated with the attack.

A film, such as this one, craves for a first-person perspective. Like the 1938 broadcast of “War of the Worlds” (or, for the kiddies, “Cloverfield” or “Paranormal Activity”), the format forces the listener or viewer to “fill in the blanks.” These films don’t coddle the viewer – The film doles out the information sparingly, leaving it up to viewers to imagine what is past the camera’s point of view.

Most films, though, are a conventional third-person perspective. These are the films like “Harry Potter,” “Star Wars,” “Twilight” and… Well, just about every other film out there. These films have the ‘invisible camera’ that shows the entire story & presents the story in much the same way as though reading a book.

“Dead Air” tries to be a “mixed-perspective” film. Oh boy.

I’m generally not a fan of “mixed-perspective” films, such as “The Last Broadcast” which maddeningly switches to a conventional third-person film after an otherwise effective first-person “mockumentary” presentation.

“Dead Air,” like so many other mixed-perspective films, tries to have it’s cake & eat it, too. Not only does it want you to feel the terror & let your imagination run wild but also wants to fill in the gaps just in case there’s someone too dense in the audience who can’t figure it all out.

Unfortunately, mixed-perspective films are rarely entertaining, being a poor hybrid of the two formats. One perspective always dominates & it betrays the hard work of the other perspective to complement the story. In the case of “Dead Air,” the third-person perspective bullies it’s way onto the screen & doesn’t loosen it’s grip on the storyline in the slightest. That’s unfortunate, given that the premise of “Dead Air” (not to mention the budget) practically begs for the first-person.

This film would’ve been so much more effective had it simply concentrated on the main storyline & nothing else. Unfortunately, to merely get to the main storyline, one must wade through the ancillary side stories of the shock jock’s current wife who may or not be affected, the three (mostly incompetent) terrorists who whittle themselves down & finally some ham-fisted social commentary about the state of foreign affairs as well as the state of American journalism (or complete lack thereof) along with the usual “10 Little Indians” device for whittling down the survivors as they one by one succumb to the zombie menace.

I’ve written it once… I’ll write it again…


Unfortunately for this film, the ancillary storylines really killed this movie for me. I just did not care for any of them; Not for the shock jock’s ex-wife (who, in typical B-movie fashion, is involved with the now perfunctory “last-second twist” made infamous by cheap movies worldwide), not for the terrorists & not even the “who will die next” mechanism for zombie movies really motivate me very well.

In a low-budget film like this one, less would’ve definitely have been more – Why not have the shock jock look out of the window & only see… Something. A group of people all running. Police sirens. An empty street. Hear a “boom” in the distance. Force the shock jock to have to decide whether or not his listeners are pulling his leg or whether there is a genuine event occurring.

The few times that the movie tries for a money shot, it just fails & clarifies just how small the budget was. I didn’t care for the “warehouse zombie ambush” scenes because… Quite frankly… It looked like a college student’s film project. In fact, any time I saw zombies actually up close… It just looked cheap. Very cheap.

I understand the desire to make a film “complete,” the film equivalent of having a fully-formed & grammatically correct sentence. Just like a book has a beginning, middle & end, so too the decision-makers of this film thought that the need for the ancillary story lines would propel this film to likability for the unwashed masses who need all questions answered & a neat little character arc for those who thrive on the standard film-making devices. I understand that the filmmakers wanted me to “care” about Logan & to have Logan transform from a shock jock to someone who legitimately cared about other people. However…


I would have loved to have seen this film in a first-person perspective, following the cast around as they scramble to find out more about the disaster while slowly realizing just how doomed they truly are. Imagine only seeing glimpses of the disaster on a television screen or actually experiencing the black-outs.

I honestly enjoy the premise… I just did not appreciate the execution.

Orson Welles was forced to drop his character at the end of his radio broadcast to assure people that all they had listened to was fake. The filmmakers had a choice & that choice was to take the conventional way out. One wonders how the world might be different, not for the better, had Mr. Welles had done the same.


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