Erin Miracle, Alexandria Lightford, Aaron Guerrero, Irwin Keyes, Ben Woolf
Aaron Carter, Nicholas A. DeNicola
Rotten Productions (DVD)
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Aaron K. Carter's award-winning Dead Kansas features a cast of new actors along with some indie familiars including Irwin Keyes (House of 1000 Corpses), Juliette Danielle (The Room), and Ben Woolf (American Horror Story: Freakshow) in the story of a post-apocalyptic land consumed by "Rottens," while a simple farmer and his daughter struggle to survive. Meanwhile, a ruthless gang hatches a plan to kidnap the teenage daughter for a profit - all this sets us up for one heck of a finish as the farmer/gang confrontation amps up, a tornado threatens, and the "Rottens" are everywhere.
Dead Kansas started out as a web series before being assembled for a DVD release. At just over one hour, Dead Kansas is a breezy good time with hints of horror and a whole lot of humor. The film picked up the prize for Best Horror Film at the 2014 FANtastic Horror Film Fest in San Diego and is a rarity in that it's truly the script that makes the film shine. Carter takes some unique approaches along the way, lessening the gore and focusing the film for the most part on the actual characters. It's only late in the film that we actually see zombies, a decision that may frustrate some yet a decision that works really well in the context of the film.
The acting in Dead Kansas is definitely hit-and-miss, though Aaron Guerrero truly shines as Glenn and, rather poignantly, the film reminds us how much the late Ben Woolf, best known to Americans as Meep in American Horror Story: Freakshow, is truly missed. The actor has a compelling stage presence, but his rare form of dwarfism pretty much relegated him to less mainstream cinema.
That's a tragedy.
Dead Kansas is definitely a low-budget indie, but it's a first feature from co-writer/director Aaron K. Carter that displays his unique artistic stroke and vision and indicates a growing talent. Campy yet in many ways inspired, Dead Kansas is the kind of film that leaves you anxious for the filmmaker's next project.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic