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Dead Above Ground
IMDB Rating: 3.1/10 from 300 votes
Release: 8 September 2002 (USA) /

Dead Above Ground

Genre: Crime, Horror
Director: Chuck Bowman,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Students and teachers begin dying the same way as a video depicts.

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Critic Reviews

Well, it all kicked off authentically enough, with stock footage of people turning up in limousines to the (fictional) ‘All-American Motion Picture Awards' in Los Angeles. Director Chuck Bowman intercuts the baying crowds with a decent credit sequence, in which a robed killer slices through the screen with a steel axe! In my review for Killer Instinct, I said that Corbin Bernsen was really slumming it. Two years down the line and still nothings changed! Here he plays Mark Mallory, a director that has just won a prestigious award (yeah, that'll be the day) for his Western. He returns home with his girlfriend, telling her that he's going to use his statuette for… well, I'll let her reply paint the picture, `If you think I'm gonna let you use that as a dildo, you've been hovering up some bad sh*t again!' Charming! Their night of questionable methods for passion is ruined when they reach the front door of his house to notice that it's been vandalised. Someone has painted a bizarre satanic emblem around the knocker and written the words ‘dead above ground' in blood-red paint underneath. Instead of calling the police, Mallory decides to search the place himself and after a fumble in the dark and a smart trick by the caped killer, he discovers that offering to make his assailant a ‘movie star' really isn't going to save him from a fitting demise!

Afterwards, we head over to a school field where we're introduced to our obvious victims and two forsaken Gothics. Dressed all in black (naturally), they prove their joint-weirdness by talking about, `Escaping into the Kelt world to be with the dark gods' because the `Malevolent entities don't ask for photo-ID!' My sentiments exactly! Then we discover that the guy's name is Jeff Lucas and apart from being a credible Gareth Gates look-alike, he's a budding film director too. (Hardly the best surname for a ‘good' director!) The other Goth is his faithful girlfriend, who also worships all things Pagan. For their media studies course, all the kids have made summer video documentary projects, but Lucas has just ignored all that and helmed a gory slasher film, much to the distaste of his grumpy lecturer. He screens the short anyway, and it invokes laughter and insults from the jesting teen-audience. (Perhaps he does have something in common with his namesake after all!) This makes Jeff loose his rag and he warns everyone that they `…will die on the seventh equinox of Maven' (?) He really dislikes his frumpy old teacher and tastefully informs him, ‘his end is nigh'. By now, I was beginning to wonder if the screenwriter had swallowed an encyclopaedia of Shakespeare works before writing this script! Jeff is carted off for a visit with the attractive Doctor Brenda Boone for a psychic examination. She's the kind of counsellor that would make most Hi-school boys pretend that they're hearing voices, just so they could share a room with her for ten minutes! She thinks that he's not crazy and it's just a cry for help, but after he talks a lot more gibberish about ‘cutting eternity into time and space', everyone agrees that he's ‘certifiable' and ‘a real nut job!' (And a really bad actor!)

Surprisingly enough, later that evening he's invited to a pool party with his classmates, where Dr. Boone and his principal discuss his crazy fits and we also find out that he actually *is* the nephew of George Lucas. (I wonder if old Georgie knows about this?) Jeff dreams of being a big-time director just like his uncle, which would lead me to suggest that he gives up the trench coats and eyeliner and invests in some of those ‘stylish' flannel shirts that Lord Skywalker loves so much! It doesn't take long before he blows a fuse again and he slaps a girl with considerable force, knocking her into the swimming pool. Her boyfriend, Dylan, flaws the spiky haired anarchist and he curses everyone again before legging it to his car. Unsatisfied that he's taught him a tough-enough lesson, Dylan takes off after him and after the most leisurely paced car-chase ever filmed, Jeff's brakes conveniently cease to exist and he drives off the edge of a cliff. The car drops about 3000 feet and then explodes into a ball of flames, making survival a patent impossibility. Don't forget that this is a slasher film, and it's unlikely that people are going to be allowed to get away with that kind of punishment, without some loony or another coming back to seek revenge…!

Twelve months down the line, a new student has moved into Jeff's old house at Moss Point and is knocking about with his old ‘friends'. Chip reckons that he keeps having nightmares about someone warning him that they'll come back to kill off everyone that was involved in the accident. The Gothic chick suggests that they attempt to contact Jeff's spirit through a séance and she'll be the medium. Later that night, they all sit in a circle and she tries to conjure a spirit guide with the rip-roaring speech, `Spirits of the South that are warm and bright like Atlantis'. Chip starts moaning the words ‘dead above ground' and generally begins looking deranged, so everyone breaks the circle and the séance ends. Before long a hooded killer with a steel axe begins chopping up the teens and their teachers in the exact same ways that were depicted in Jeff's movie one year earlier. It looks as if he's come back from the grave to settle the score…

Television director Chuck Bowman has made such a sloppy mess of Dead above Ground, that I'm surprised he can still get work on the small screen, let alone in the movies. Instead of using operatic themes to create suspense and tension, he's chucked in cheap and junky heavy metal that's genuinely painful to the ears. The cast looks as if they'd struggle to get bit parts dubbing a video game and they must've generally believed that expressing an emotion would put them higher up the killer's to-do list, because they remain as flat as ten year old can of coke all the way through. Josh Hammond is perhaps the worst actor on the planet and the lack of any interesting characters means that you couldn't care less if they all died of gonorrhoea or if they invented a cure for diabetes. There's not much of a body count and you'll find more gore in a three-hour teletubbies extravaganza than you will looking through this utter dross. Slashers this crud usually manage to redeem themselves with a little unintentional comedy, but there's no chance of finding any of that here either. The pagan-chatter was occasionally amusing, but everything else was so utterly incompetent that any fun that could have been had is totally ruined by the outright inane-ness of the entire team. Couldn't they at least have thought of a more under-done premise, it's like The Burning never happened, and what's with all the Shakespearian dialogue?

Horror movies are usually big on atmosphere. The only feeling that this creates is contempt for shelling out the money to pay for it. How anyone picked it up to release in the United Kingdom is a miracle, what did they find so appealing to make them think that us Brits deserve to witness it? Dead Above Ground, should be ‘dead under ground' – Never to resurface again!

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