*. Zombie movies have been allegories since they got started, and by that I mean even before George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). We can go as far back as I Walked with a Zombie (1943), where zombies represented a slave-labour force used to harvest sugar cane. Though with Romero the social allegory in particular really took off, from zombies as mindless consumers walking the mall to a revolutionary underclass.
*. So if Dawn of the Deaf isn’t just a zombie splatterfest but instead seems to be a movie about other things, that’s not a bold new direction so much as a natural extension of the super-plastic zombie metaphor. Zombies being always among us, they can be made to stand for anything.
*. Unfortunately, even for a movie that seems so intent about standing for something, I was never sure what that something was. Which is surprising given that it’s just a 12-minute short. The basic idea is that an audio “pulse” makes everyone drop dead and then, a few minutes later, rise again as flesh-eating zombies. The only ones not affected are the deaf.
*. Sticking with the plot outline here, I found it surprising that the IMDb plot summary has this to say: “When a sonic pulse infects the hearing population, a small group of Deaf people must band together to survive.” This is not at all what the film is about, or even what happens. There are only two girls at the end who are together after the pulse, and that’s where we leave them. There’s no banding together to survive. I wonder where this summary came from. Could it have been supplied by the producers? Also: is Deaf now supposed to be capitalized? I keep missing these memos.
*. In addition to being deaf the two survivors are also girlfriends, so as lesbians they are doubly marginalized. In addition, one of the girls is the victim of incest, as her father is sexually abusing her. This is really unpleasant stuff, and not at all what I was expecting from a movie with such a joke title. In fact, the title had been used in a zombie comedy out of Australia just the year before. There was some real mixed messaging going on here, as this is not a comedy and indeed doesn’t even try to raise a smile at any point.
*. Aside from the two girls there’s also a deaf man who is addressing some gala event. After the pulse he will be torn to pieces.
*. As I say, I’m not sure what the point here was. Ironies are pointed. The one girl tells the other that she doesn’t care who knows that they’re lovers, only when the world has been transformed so that there’s nobody left who will ever care or know. The man making a speech is proud of doing so in his own voice, but then has his tongue ripped out. I get it, but then I don’t.
*. There’s one neat bit of business when the subtitles for hand signing go in and out of sight as the two girls are arguing in an underpass. Aside from that, the film is a mess. In particular, I couldn’t figure out the timeline. Does the girl kill her father before or after she goes to meet her friend? Because he seems to be coming back to life on the bed, which would be well ahead of schedule. And what’s with the pranksters scaring random people? Just a pair of jerks?
*. I can’t say I liked this one much. It left me confused and with a bad taste in my mouth. Why include all the creepy incest stuff? I guess the point is just that the world pre-pulse is full of predatory jerks like the guys pulling pranks and the girl’s father, so that when they get turned into zombies they haven’t changed all that much. This is a familiar theme in zombie movies, but it’s not put forward with any real urgency here. It’s nicely turned out for such a low-budget effort, and marks an early teaming of British director Rob Savage with writer Jed Shepherd, who’d go on to make Host a few years later, but that’s all that’s worth noting.