Okay, before I get to a main review here let me start with a few words about writer-director-star Jay Shatzer. I only know of Jay, and his film, now because he appeared on the IMDb Horror boards and politely informed people about his work. He wasn't pushing it down our throats, he didn't pretend to be an unconnected fan to a "new masterpiece of horror" and he didn't mind chatting to people who politely declined to view the movie. He was, in short, a very well-mannered and polite individual who had managed to create something he hoped others would like. After seeing the behaviour of some others promoting their work online (people I won't even bother to name again because they don't deserve to be mentioned) I can say that Jay's approach was a breath of fresh air.
So when he put the movie up online last week, available to view for all (I will place a link at the bottom of the review and hope some of you, at least, check it out) I was both pleased and apprehensive. What if I watched the movie and hated it? What if it was just some gore-filled, boring amateur effort that I would have to be polite about while also being relatively unkind? I didn't want to do that, I didn't want to be one guy at a keyboard criticising a fellow horror fan who'd gone out and tried to make something he thought was worthwhile. Thankfully, it didn't come to that.
I really enjoyed Among The Fallen. It's not a genre-shaking film and it's not a debut that signifies writer-director-star-editor-composer (motivational speaker and teamaker?) Jay Shatzer as the new messiah of horror cinema but it's competent and has a LOT of nicely atmospheric moments. Clocking it at 60 minutes, some may qualify it as a feature and some may not, but however you view it . . . . . . . . . . do view it.
The plot is really quite simple. Jay plays Will Ashford (according to the credits), a man who finds himself attacked by zombies. As Will slides in and out of various bewildering episodes he moves from being confused and questioning his own sanity to becoming determined and ruthlessly efficient at cutting down the undead.
Let's get this done as efficiently and professionally as possible then. The good . Jay certainly does well with his construction of the movie and he's not too bad in the lead role (though I did wish for his character to be a bit more vocal, it's practically a non-speaking part). The atmosphere is fantastic, the audio is nice and polished and I really didn't spot any major mistakes anywhere in the film (and I was looking hard). The zombies, when they appear, are actually pretty spooky and the make-up is great. Fans of the classic shambling type of zombie will also be pleased to know that there are no fast movers here. The soundtrack is also impressive with some nice, running themes that aren't overused.
The bad. It's a shame that Jay decided to keep dialogue at a minimum because the atmosphere carries you along for many portions of the movie but doesn't get you through every single minute without some testing of viewer patience. While the zombies are spooky and threatening as they are introduced (with an especially effective scene showing Will surrounded by the deceased) they seem to have less fight in them as they get closer to the main character and the tension quickly begins to fade away. There's also a ten minute period in the second half of the movie that feels like a misjudged attempt to take things a bit more in the direction of The Evil Dead (both with the actions of our hero and one or two audio cues, intentional or not) as opposed to the wonderfully spooky zombie outings created by the likes of Fulci and co. To put it simply, Jay does much better when he's trying to show his own vision than when he's trying to emulate others. Then there's the ending, which is a mix of good and bad. I'm sure many other fans will find themselves with the same reaction, it's too easy to see it coming over the horizon once the movie gets in to the second half. But it's still well executed and contains a really nice emotional core that you don't often get in such genre fare.
Even looking at those paragraphs above, I've written more about the bad than the good, I feel as if I've done Jay a disservice. The good points are, for a low-budget debut feature, very good indeed and outweigh the negatives. There is some really nice camerawork on display and a refreshing approach to the material that values tone and a certain poetry above the standard jumps and easy scares. I'm glad that I took note of Jay's name and got to see this film, I wish him the best of luck with it and look forward to anything that he gets to do in the future.
Here is the link to the movie on YouTube. If one or two people go and watch this I'll be most appreciative. If one or two people view the film and also enjoy it I may hand out cookies.