The Burning Dead is directed by Rene Perez based on the screenplay by Jason Ancona and Jeff Miller, who previously worked together to pen Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan. Cast members include Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn, Machete), Thomas Downey (The Beast of Bray Road), Moniqua Plante (“Nashville”), Nicole Cummins, Kevin Norman, Robert F. Lyons (Dark Night of the Scarecrow), Kyle T. Heffner (“Suddenly Susan”), Julia Lehman (Cheerleader Massacre II), Matthew W. Tate, and Kelsey Zukowski as a frontier zombie.
In The Burning Dead, “a sheriff must rescue an estranged family from a mountain during a volcano eruption and fight off a horde of lava-filled zombies brought to life by a curse.”
The Burning Dead, formerly titled Volcano Zombies, is definitely not going to be for everyone. I’ll say that right off the bat. With a somewhat silly premise and laughable CGI lava, it’s going to pass by most of the horror and science fiction demographic. If you’re a fan of campy, cheese horror films and bad CGI films like Into the Storm, Christmas Icetastrophy, and Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys, then this will be the movie for you. It contains almost all of the elements that you’d see on a Saturday night SyFy Original Movie and I’m honestly surprised it never premiered there in the first place!
Despite having such an outlandish plot, The Burning Dead is actually very well produced. The cinematography – when not filled with extremely fake looking lava – is breathtaking and doesn’t have a single frame out of focus. The lighting was probably the easiest to work with because the entire film takes place during the day. The editing was flawless and the special effects were even better. All of the gore and all of the lava zombies looked the part and I’m honestly glad so much detail was put into them. Had the special effects team gone the normal small budget movie route and just tossed some white face paint and blood stains on them, it would have greatly diminished the professionalism. All of the actors involved pulled in good performances. There aren’t any standouts here, but it’s not like anyone was trying to win an Oscar in a movie about historic zombies crawling out of an erupting volcano.
Speaking of the lava zombies, I’m sure you guys are checking out The Burning Dead and want to know more about the lava zombies. Well, some can spit flames, most of them are charred, and they can burn you by touching you. So, I can give a lot of props for originality but other than that they’re nothing to write home about. They’re never really fleshed out in a complete way and I was left wondering A) how they survived being trapped in lava for centuries and B) how they survived being thrown out of a volcano. I know things are sort of explained due to an age old, spiritual curse, but I just wasn’t buying it. I wasn’t sold on the ending either, which was kind of a huge let down. The lava zombies are the draw here. More work needed to be added to their story.
Now, Danny Trejo is front and center on the DVD cover and advertised as the first person on the cast list. Don’t be fooled, though. Trejo is only in The Burning Dead for about eight minutes. Even though he’s as serious, enticing, and bad ass as usual, I don’t want you guys to run out and buy this one thinking that he’s the star. He’s just barely a supporting role here.
Lava zombies. Danny Trejo. Very good cinematography and special effects. The only thing that really hurts The Burning Dead is the horrible CGI lava, ash, smoke, etc. By all means this movie isn’t made to be taken seriously, so it does achieve its goal of being fun to watch. If you’re a fan of SyFy Network Original Movies, then you’ll get a kick out of The Burning Dead. Anyone else should probably avoid.
FINAL SCORE: 6.8 out of 10