Once again, Malevolent Dark is proud to bring the gore consuming public a pre-release review of Bridge of the Doomed (2022). We would like to thanks Sonny Mahal (@smahal1) from Mahal Empire for giving us the opportunity to get a look at the film. Other production names attached to the film include Spicy Ramen and FilmCore. FilmCore also produced another film that we reviewed recently, The Sawyer Massacre (2022). Writer Adrian Milnes and Director Michael Su take on the zombie genre in a way that feels comfortably familiar, with radical twist that makes it super fun!
Bridge of the Doomed is scheduled to be released November 4, 2022 by Gravitas Ventures.
Tipping Their Cap
Zombie films necessarily pay tribute to the late-great George A. Romero. His name is synonymous with the genre and demands respect from anyone that mentions the living dead. Bridge of the Doomed goes beyond the standard in order to pen a love letter to the genre that Romero built. On surface, we have zombies and a isolated military detachment doing their best to manage an increasingly harrowing situation. The parallels with Day of the Dead (1985) seem obvious, but it would be lazy to stop there. Bridge of the Doomed really takes to another level.
Whether conscience of not, the creative team produced a film indistinguishable from the later zombie works of Romero. We are talking Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009) era stuff. All of these films put forth a stark and chilling atmosphere through the dead-pan interactions of the characters and overt social commentary through mockumentary news. Together these elements create a foreboding feeling that the whole world teeters on the brink of collapse.
While doing their best to emulate the master, the writers then take a swing for the proverbial fence by taking huge creative risk to be discussed later.
Spoiler alert, it works.
For all of you zombie taxonomists out there, Bridge of the Doomed zombies lie somewhere between the ultra-fast Dawn of the Dead (2008) type and Romero’s lumbering dead. The writers do not make it entirely clear how to kill them, but we see a few headshots. Still, otherswestsdsdfsdfsdfsdfsdfsdfsdfsdfsdfsdf seem to succumb to other damage.
A small band of military personnel lead by Colonel Vasquez (Robert LaSardo) is cutoff from supplies and isolated from help. They have been deployed to quell the local outbreak of living dead. Knowing that their defenses are collapsing, Vasquez decides to send a small band of soldiers lead by Sargent Hernandez (Kate Watson) and including a Norwegian explosive expert. The mission: Wire the bridge to explode and defend that chokepoint as a last line of defense against an zombie onslaught. If you love your zombie flicks, you’ll really love them with a dash of Saving Private Ryan (1998).
As they attempt to carryout their mission, morale begins to fall among the soldiers, and the situation erodes their moral fabric. what’s more, a local band of civilian survivors refuse to comply with orders. Between the civilian encampment and the military, supplies and food run short driving tensions to the breaking point. Vasquez sends Colonel Charon (Robert Paré) to assist, but will he make it before they are over run? Just when this situation reaches the boiling point, they find something even more dangerous than the zombies living under the bridge.
The Inner Beauty of Independent Film
As an independent film, Bridge of the Doomed clearly must contend with a lower budget. The beauty of independent horror films really blossoms from these limitations. What continually proves fascinating is how directors and cinematographers plow through these limitations to create entertaining films.
Laying the groundwork, Bridge of the Doomed suffers from what seems to be an endemic problem in the current state-of-the-art. The stark nature of ultra-high resolution cameras rob the films of natural depth of field and creates harsh unforgiving lines. Ultimately it leads to a brash viewing experience. We saw that same in thing in Canadian film Black Mountain Side (2015). This negative affect seems to be more more profound during static dialog shots.
However, Michael Su, also credited with cinematography, provides a several techniques to break this up. While standard dialog shots suffer from a lack of depth, he juxtaposes those with sprawling aerial shots that expend the audiences sense of the films universe. Some of these shots are magnificent. Furthermore, Michael Su changes direction when shooting action sequences by adopting a shaky “combat cam” to create a sense of chaos and peril. He’s careful not to overuse it and uses multiple camera techniques to keep the audience’s eyes fresh.
Due the setting of the film, the films universe is massive. The production team settled on desert borderland in Nevada. While setting the scene with aerial shots, Michael Su and team deploy a bit more movie magic. Bridge of the Doomed use a smattering of CGI to add a bit of chaos and atmosphere to the set. For starters, CGI flames and black smoke dot the landscape. Even more profound, a rushing CGI runs under the “Bridge of the Doomed”.
Truth be known, the CGI doesn’t dazzle, but the restrained use of feels like a very honest way to expand on the limitations given by the environment. A production could triple its cost by shooting 2-3 locations, or the team can use this simple technique to free the money for use elsewhere. Michael Su also uses this technique later as the zombie horde presses down. Clearly, many of the zombies are CGI and the CGI is mediocre; however, it’s just enough to create the effect of the impending doom of a zombie horde while still being honest with the audience.
Key Casting Decisions
Overall, Bridge of the Doomed anchors much of its success on the performances of their leads. We loved the hard-nosed yet pragmatic Colonel Vasquez played by Robert LaSardo. He emanated a slight bit of Captain Henry Rhodes (Day of the Dead), while keeping it rooted with military professionalism and ounce of integrity. Kate Watson was clearly cast to be a bombshell battle-lord and she owns it. She hangs in there with the boys and asserts her dominance. She never yields in the face of opposition. Michael Paré excels as the battle hardened Colonel Charon.
Beyond those roles, the drop-off is noticeable, but we enjoyed the performances of William Connor as Big Jim McGill. We especially loved the performance of King Jeff as the pragmatic moral compass of the bridge defense squad, Private Sanders. We only wish he had been promoted to Colonel Sanders… because that would have been a riot.
DUDE! What’s Under the Bridge? (Major Spoilers)
Well, we’ll tell you what’s under the bridge. Common wisdom would call this thing a troll, because we all know that trolls live under bridges. Malevolent Dark’s chief monster taxonomist weighed in on to clear up the matter. After careful deliberation, they came back with call that this is actually the famed chupacabra. What’s the evidence? We don’t know, but chupacabra is a lot more fun to say and clearly they have been underrepresented in the horror pantheon. Trust us, we know what we are talking about.
Independent Films Are What We Make Of Them
At Malevolent Dark we revel in the opportunity to get an early look at these films. Today’s indie film might be tomorrows unheralded classic. At a certain level, we stop handing out star ratings because we feel that it’s not fair to compare these films against monster big studio films. Bridge of the Doomed would score well above average if graded on a curve. This biggest asset it possesses is its willingness not to take itself too seriously and being over-the-top fun. The production team performs admirably in making the best use of their resources to add some flair to the zombie sub-genre..
Bridge of the Doomed is a honest zombie film fighting for street cred in a world of 1000 zombie films. We think it’s worth a look.