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"The Dead Deads"

Horror head-to-head

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Making its official premiere this Friday at the Little Theatre, "The Dead Deads" is a new, Rochester-made horror movie from filmmakers Eric Maira and Patrick Montanaro — collectively known as "Werewolf House." Filmed in their spare time over the course of several months last winter, (which accounts for the film's general Christmas-y theme), the movie documents the gradual unraveling of a troubled young 20-something named Teagan (played by Montanaro). Not satisfied with his job, involved in a romantic relationship that neither partner seems terribly invested in, and forced to take care of his aging mother while his sister shirks her familial responsibilities, Teagan grows ever more unstable. Meanwhile, he begins devoting an unhealthy amount of time to playing around with an old camcorder. The camera acts as his shield from the world, but quickly grows into an obsession.

Maira and Montanaro's script takes a somewhat surrealistic approach to the story; one in which the horror is mostly of the psychological variety. This leads to a relatively slow build-up — arguably a touch too slow for the film's less than 80 minute runtime — but I appreciated the time devoted to developing the main character's plight, and the story is always interestingly told. It may be unpolished, but like the best horror films, the filmmakers find subtext to the horror, as they examine the ways we sometimes find ourselves turning into our parents (whether we want to or not) and what kind of effect that can have on someone for whom that's akin to becoming a monster.

The filmmakers describe the movie as a "no budget horror film," but they find ways to stretch their minimal resources in creative ways. They're aided by a capable group on nonprofessional actors who make their roles convincing, though the script has a tendency to portray its female characters as needy, vindictive, or some combination of the two. Maira has a strong eye, creating some striking imagery out of the film's everyday settings. It's certainly rough around the edges, but to the filmmakers' credit, they know exactly what they're capable of pulling off. "The Dead Deads" is a promising debut for Werewolf House, made all the more impressive considering this is only its first feature film.

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