Nine months after Dead West had had its premiere, Cowboys & Aliens hit the US box office. As a result, Dead West has been marketed in most parts of the world under the title Cowboys & Vampires or Cowboys vs Vampires. These are also the titles under which you will most likely find the DVDs.
The film’s plot is meant to be a parable for the decline of the Western genre and the rise of Gothic Horror:
Our hero is an ex-Western actor who earns his money by doing the odd TV commercial but chiefly by starring in daily shoot-out recreations at the Old Tucson Studios – recreations which are mainly visited by pensioners. As a new company buys the studios, they want to revamp the entertainment to attract younger audiences – plans which include more emphasis on ghost town horror, etc.
The film has in fact been shot at the Old Tucson Studios, and it frequently references their role in film history. Also, some actual footage of the 1995 fire that destroyed large parts of the Old Tucson Studios has been used in this film.
It may be down to these credentials that Dead West made it into the Tucson Film and Music Festival. In fact, twice the cover and sleeve material of my DVD proudly states that the film was in the “official selection” of the Tucson Film and Music Festival 2010 – which is not saying much anyway, and rather adoringly Tucson is misspelled both times.
The dialogue in Dead West is not always as solid and as natural as one would wish. And the acting is a bit rough at times, but not bad. In fact, all the lead actors seem to be talented, even though they are mostly unknown B-movie actors.
The special effects are deplorable, but that is excusable in a low-budget environment.
I do have some problems with the editing. Many choices in editing seem to have been made not for artistic reasons, but in order to cover up other problems (missing scenes or unusable shots, perhaps?), and that makes the film appear a bit chopped-up at times.
The film takes its time before it picks up speed. And then, near the end, the grand finale is preceded by a collection of scenes meant to both delay the final resolution and heighten the tension. But what these scenes do in fact achieve is to rob the film of any momentum it had finally managed to build up by that point.
The finale adds a bit of unneeded gore which does not fit the overall style and tone of the film; and as far as final battles go, the showdown in this film is pretty disappointing.
Basically, however, anyone involved seems to have tried their best. This may not be a good film, but it is not BloodRayne-III-bad. This is honest work, not some cynical genre money-grab. All in all, Dead West is a nice yet very mediocre low budget flick. Not as bad as it could have been, but given the very interesting premise it is kind of a shame that this didn’t result in a smoother, more thought-through film.
I cannot honestly recommend this film to anyone. I guess I would rate it at about 3.0 to 3.5 out of 10. The current imdb-rating of 2.4 seems unnecessarily harsh.