Zombies and found footage aren’t anything new to horror, but Pretty Dead is an interesting combination nonetheless. The pseudo-documentary tells the unfortunate story of medical student Regina Stevens, who contacts a strange fungal infection after surviving a drug overdose. The infection leaves her unable to sleep, consume food, and with a strange craving for human flesh. She begins researching her condition with aid from her EMT fiancee, but refuses to submit herself to official medical treatment.
As you can imagine, things go rapidly downhill from there.
After killing and cannibalizing four people, Regina is committed to a mental institution. The film then depicts conversations between Regina and her psychiatrist, intercut with scenes of how they got to that point and all the gory details in between. Regina is convinced that she is infected with a strange and potentially contagious disease, and must be killed for the safety of the people around her. The psychiatrist is convinced that she is schizophrenic.
The film gets great emotional mileage contrasting the home-footage of Regina’s self-administered treatment, video of her increasingly fractured and disturbed social interactions, and finally the official police interviews and surveillance videos. There are times when the found footage format falls incredibly short of the mark and times where it delivers an emotional gut-punch. Pretty Dead hits the latter mark.
Another zombie film with a similar premise that came out in 2013, Contracted* did a much more convincing job of describing why someone who was clearly very sick would avoid getting treatment until it was too late. Pretty Dead does not do the same. Clearly there is a reason that Regina doesn’t confide in her other medical colleagues or submit any of her blood work to a lab, but the film doesn’t tell us why. The film suggests a history of paranoia and mental illness, but never delves into the messy details.
The acting and the cinematography hit the mark spot on, but the soundtrack does more harm than good, assaulting the audience with ringing noise that distracts from the story. The ending sound, which meshes the droning beep of a heart monitor with a guitar solo, was the one part I enjoyed.
Overall, Pretty Dead is an interesting little zombie story that could have used a bit more character development and a better soundtrack. I’d recommend it.
*Contracted had a metric fuck-ton of other issues, which will be discussed in a separate post.