Independent films are often a hit or miss and don’t see the light of day till the film festival period begins. It’s rare to find out about such a film while it’s still being finished. It just so happened a few years ago I learned of film that had finished shooting in Wisconsin and was in post-production. The film was written and directed by two men and was filmed with the help of friends, family and others who wanted to help their dream. This became a group dream and through a brief period in Wisconsin the movie was filmed. They were fortunate that even the crazy weather helped the situation. The film in question does not live up to its name as no one found this to an issue that weighed on anyone. It was a labor of love, even with a title of Dead Weight.
Dead Weight is the brain child of friends John Pata and Adam Bartlett and it took nearly two years for the young men to get their movie made. It was an idea that both men developed from the original story to the feature length film that is NOW available for purchase, rental (Family Video) and some locations for On Demand purchase.
The cast could be called a risk taker as the main star (Joe Belknap) of the film is a first time actor. Others in the cast had everything from small experiences to some who were established actors. In all truth established actor Aaron Christensen even asked if there was a part available for his acting wife Michelle Courvais. Thankfully there was a role for her as she did play a key part in the film. How Dead Weight was put together is something that will surprise those who view the film and will raise questions about the human spirit as you watch.
Dead Weight starts on the funny side as we find a young man returning home, changing and making himself a bowl of cereal to eat. The fact that he took a risk on the milk for the cereal adds a bit of levity to the opening but things do not stay that light for long. As he’s sitting on his couch he begins to read a comic book when the phone rings. Sadly for one Charlie Russell (Belknap) it is a phone call he will never forget as it’s his girlfriend Samantha (Mary Lindberg) on the line. She has shattering news there’s an outbreak and the world is about to change around them.
This begins Charlie’s long trek to get to the city of Wausau, Wisconsin, and reunite with Samantha. We find him in the wilds of Wisconsin traveling with four additional companions. These brave individuals being the group leader Thomas (Christensen), the group’s lone female Meredith (Courvais) and two other men. The group stuck together and shared their meager supplies as they travel. They do all they can to avoid those affected by the outbreak as they follow the lone map to Wausau. They have taken Charlie at his word that they will find help in Wausau and risk their lives to get there with him.
Along this trip we will see many ethical questions raised about ones humanity. We will get to watch as characters begin to slowly doubt each other, and that at times the infected are not the only danger. We have to question what would we be willing to do reunite with a loved one in this type of a world. Would we follow Charlie’s example or take other roads to get to our destination? There are other psychological questions to be answered as we watch the events unfold. The one true fact of the film is this; Charlie must get to Wausau no matter the cost. The other question between Samantha and Charlie which side will you find yourself in favor of as you watch their lives prior to the outbreak.
Dead Weight does an amazing job at presenting this story to the viewer. They are able to show the bleakness of the world through the lens and the way the way the film was framed. During the filming they shot in sequence so as things changed for the characters the cast also followed in those emotions. A sudden spring snowfall made for an additional element that helped show a passage of time that is important to the films progress. This is evident as some scenes the freshly fallen snow is seen melting in others.
I have a special place in my heart for this film as John and Adam gave me some unique access to the movie. At the time I was involved with a Horror Podcast and was given an invite to a private screening of the film. I was able to sit down with the stars of the film, and even interview for the podcast. John and Adam had even done a prior interview with me on the film and after each talk it was hard not to want to see this film become popular.
I even took my wife to see one of the first public viewings of the film in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, were we purchased a copy of the movie. It was a special event as you felt like a family was involved in the undertaking of Dead Weight. The credit for the film was shared among all involved.
Dead Weight may not be a perfect film to Hollywood’s standards but the film is very well made. Yes you have to allow for some of the rawness in the acting, and some of the scenes but the movie made use of the locations they were able to use. This included a local airport, restaurant, and the wilds of Wisconsin. It is a movie that could stick in the mind if you give it a chance. So my suggestion, give it that chance.
As an added treat I have added an audio interview I did at a screaning of the film with some of the stars (Joe Belknap, Mary Lindberg, Aaron Christensen, Michelle Courvais) of the movie. The review was done and played on the podcast, HorrorAddicts.net at the time so there will be references to that time and a question of what are favorite horror films.