‘…a refined, intense piece of elevated horror that plays successfully with the hot button topic of borders…’

Back to the SXSW festival for a tough thriller; writer and director Lance Larson’s film Deadland is a refined, intense piece of elevated horror that plays successfully with the hot button topic of borders. It’s perhaps understandable that a country like Mexico, which has its identity entrenched with the  border with the United States, should also find the spiritual border between life and the afterlife to be a metaphor in its spiritual beliefs. It’s an idea that was surprisingly deftly well-explored in Pixar’s animation Coco, but Deadland takes the concept in a far more serious and elliptical way; those who dug Donald Cammell or Nic Roeg’s storytelling style in the 70’s and 80’s should apply here…

U.S. Border Patrol Agent Angel Waters (Roberto Urbina) finds the body of a man who seems to have failed in an attempted border crossing; he puts the body in a body bag, and starts to drive it in his patrol car back to his station when the man abruptly seems to come back to life. The stranger is accidentally shot and killed at the police station in events beyond Waters’ control, and he makes the difficult decision to cover his tracks and bury the stranger in the desert…

Of course, Waters hasn’t heard the end of the saga of the displaced stranger, but there’s more. Waters’ father, who the cop has never previously met, mysteriously appears at his family home, and their estrangement has drawn another barrier between the two men. The afterlife seems to have been operating a ‘one in, one out’ policy, and that sense of displacement seems central to the themes of Deadlands.

Co-written with David Elliot and Jas Shelton, Deadland is a sombre, moody film; this isn’t for thrill-seekers, although the brooding, melancholy atmosphere is infectious. Deadland never quite shows its hand until the end, and that’s a good thing; there are multiple meanings here, and Larson’s film is all the better when mining ambiguity from a strange, complex situation. Deadland ends up playing with the kind of tricky metaphorical deck as Carlos Reygadas’ Battle in Heaven, and that’s high praise for a debut feature.


Leave a Reply
          • I skipped that. Hollywood was more infectiously jolly in the 1940s when Carmen Miranda was on the loose. Interestingly, the reason for all those Mexican- and South American-set movies in the 1940s was Hollywood had to make up revenues it had lost from Europe during World War Two. Mexico was no longer full of thieving bandits but handsome leading men.

              • Yep. Other impacts of the war were electricity and gas rationing. Enforced blackouts and dimouts affected marquees, a block on air conditioning hit summer attendance, gas rationing meant potential audieces stayed at home – good news for radio though – and the government limited the production of prints to just 250, less than half the number a big hit required.

  1. I’m with fraggle in that this checks too many “no” boxes – somber, horror, etc.

    However, I love the plot twist of putting a dead body in a body bag and it (he?) coming back to life. Nice hook.

    • It worked for Val Lewton in The Body Snatcher, and it works here as well. It’s been a week for dark horror, so I’ll aim to cheer up a bit asap…

  2. Ummm, as much as it pains me to contradict you, that trailer shows the movie’s hand right there. It is literally the still image. Maybe you should see an ophthalmologist and get a new prescription for your glasses?

    • Have tried to crowbar my way in and fix it. WordPress and the Jetpack app became two different things last week, and now I can’t fix typos without my laptop. And this website is mainly typos.

        • I got into the WP add via google, I think. Somehow these imporvements from WP and Jetpac have made things harder…

          • The reason I asked was because wp has said you can’t use both apps on the same device (ie, your phone), as it can cause problems. So I was wondering. I use the jetpack app because it deals with the notifications, comments, stats, etc that I am interested in for an app. Writing posts I almost do exclusively on my laptop online.

            And I’m still waiting for the monetization with the jp app. There’s no reason why they split the original wp app into 2 apps if they didn’t have some money grubbing plan 🙁

            • Totally; I’m already paying for a Wp business plan, but now I can’t adjust my typos without a laptop. I’ll bet they’ll aim to make me pay for jetpac seperately, yet another scam to make you pay for something you already had, Musk shyster style..

      • There seems to be a lot of issues with your website in particular, what with the no commenting on it and now this. I got the Jetpak app too and ditched the WP app on my phone, so far so good.

        • So I did the same, because apparently you can’t have both. But my posts don’t show up on the Jetpack app, so it’s all a mess, really.

Leave a Reply