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Dead West: Road Trips & Serial Killers

Dead West (2016)In this age of GPS locators, NSA surveillance, and cameras everywhere, I’m surprised that serial killers still can operate today.  Think about it:  If you ran into somebody without a past, no cell phone, and sticking to side roads when they drove while paying for everything in cash, you KNOW that something is up.  It just seems weird…but that’s not the way it was at one time.  Hell, Hollywood loved documenting these road adventures at one time.  But, alas, times have changed.

I guess that’s what’s so off about Dead West.  It feels like a dark 80s road trip set in modern times.  While it plays with the anti-hero genre, it doesn’t effectively position the audience as to who we should be rooting for.  By no means is this bad but it doesn’t really build to anything really as well.  Dead West will keep you interested for the most part but it does drag a little in the middle before settling into its story.

Brian Sutherland plays the Ladykiller (a charismatic serial killer that is making his way across Texas).  The Ladykiller is an enigma and never goes by the same name in each location but always managing to attract cute (desperate) blondes.  With each victim, we are given a small sliver of the real man committing these horrible acts.

Dead West tries to play with the anti-hero genre that is so popular today.  The first scene looks and feels like a Quentin Tarantino but lacks the quirk that he is known for.  It then gets this Falling Down pace to it as each victim reveals flaws in their personalities that “justify” his murders.  It’s here where I found myself drifting a bit.  The scenes were good but what makes a good anti-hero story is to show that a person’s good intentions lead to horrible actions.  Dead West tries to show that a person’s bad intentions can lead to good actions on occasion.  It’s risky storytelling and I don’t blame writer/director Jeff Ferrell for trying to execute it.  The Ladykiller is just too much of a bad guy to root for.  But, who knows?  Maybe that’s what he wanted us to think about:  Are people really set in their ways?

While most of the murders are merely setup to our main story, we also spend quite a bit of time following a victim’s brother (Jeffrey Arrington) as he hunts down the Ladykiller.  It’s a great side story that culminates too soon in the film.  Once it wraps up, we’re introduced to (what I can call) the main story of Dead West.  Honestly, all three of these story lines could work well as shorts.  They all have a different look and feel to them.  It’s this disjointedness that just gives you an off feeling about the movie.

While Sutherland has fun with the role, it’s confusing to see women swoon to this mysterious stranger.  I guess his character just has something that I don’t see.  His supporting cast does a good job here (especially Katie Michels) but nothing exceptional.  Ferrell is more than competent behind the scenes and I’d love to see what he could do with another writer collaborating.  The music really stood out to me and was a welcome addition to the story.

While there are some flaws to Dead West, check it out.  It’s on DVD 02/07/17.






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