Dead & Rotting (2002)

Starring Stephen O’Mahoney, Tom Hoover, Debbie Rochon, Trent Haaga, Jeff Dylan Graham, Barbara Katz-Norrod, Christopher Suciu, Beth Biasella, Tammi Sutton, Jamie Star

Directed by David P. Barton

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


I always hope to like the movie I’m watching, but I must admit that I started Dead & Rotting with a real sinking feeling. The title seemed prophetic of the film’s quality, and its ugly cover art (see above) didn’t reassure me any. So when I began the film and it wasn’t an immediate train wreck, my spirits lifted a bit. A few minutes in, I actually thought to myself, “This is actually pretty good!” By the end of the film, I had been converted completely, and I can now declare Dead & Rotting to actually be one of the best Full Moon films of the early 2000s. Maybe now I’ll have learned my lesson not to judge a movie by its title/cover, but with Full Moon movies like Magic in the Mirror: Fowl Play still on deck for review, I’m unsure if it’ll stick.

Three prankster buddies are out for a night ride in their truck, daring each other to check out a scary house in the woods rumored to be the house of a witch. Before they can get too close, though, they meet a weird, dirty man who runs them off the property by attacking the truck with some kind of animal on a stick. One thing leads to another and the witch sets out to curse the men, asking them, “Do you know what it feels like to be dead and rotting?” It’s a fairly simple, straightforward movie and it’s also short, so I’ll leave it at that. You get the gist.

Dead & Rotting works with a limited set of characters, and it perfectly establishes them very quickly. Our three leads are each defined and unique and unlikable in the time-old traditions of horror movies that encourage you to root for the villain. This gives the witch motive and reason to delve into her magical knowledge to teach these guys a lesson, and it’s very fun to watch all this play out. I mean, even if the characters weren’t great, any script with the line “Witches are like gangbangers,” deserves some praise. The acting is universally great from the main cast, too, with Trent Haaga and Debbie Rochon shining the brightest.

This is an early 2000s low-budget movie from Full Moon, though, so Dead & Rotting is pretty light on the gore. It makes up for this with a few moments that really get under your skin, as well as some nice sound design and clever directorial instincts. Dead & Rotting is shot beautifully, with well-framed images that look far better than just about every other shot-on-video, low-budget horror film I’ve seen from the era. It’s genuinely funny, too. The DVD extras informed me that director David P. Barton was a childhood friend of J.R. Bookwalter, and the pair made many films together. Barton went on to a successful FX career, but unfortunately this is his only feature credit as a director.

I really enjoyed Dead & Rotting, and I would think that most people interested in low-budget films would too. I wish I had more to say, but whatever… just watch it!

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be watching the sequel to Dragonworld that is technically not a Full Moon movie: Dragonworld: The Legend Continues! See ya then!

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