The horror community has been inundated with zombie movies over the past decade. It seems as if every walking dead trope has been done – slow zombies, fast zombies, unkillable zombies, talking zombies, pet zoombies, soldier zombies, zombie hordes, radioactive zombies, virus-infected zombies, rabid zombies… we’ve even had intelligent zombies. The synopsis for Gravitas Ventures’ 3 Hours Till Dead actually sounded a bit different. Was this indie filmmaker able to pull off what many others before him have tried unsuccessfully to accomplish for years – a unique zombie trope?
The official synopsis for 3 Hours Till Dead:
An AWOL soldier with PTSD goes into hiding along with his brother and a few friends. They retreat into a rural farm area unaware that the outside world has ceased to function. On their way back to civilization, his brother is attacked by an infected farmer. He quickly morphs into a rabid animal and lives for exactly three hours. Realizing they are in grave danger, they head back to the forest trying to outlive the legions of the infected.
Zombies that drop dead after only three hours? Tell me more!
3 Hours Till Dead is the brainchild of Jason Mills, who directed, acted in, wrote the script, edited, executively produced, directed the photography and designed the sets. Garnet Campbell (They Came From the Attic 2009) produced the film while the score was composed by Hunt for the Mad Trapper’s (2013) Marko Koumoulas and Matthew Chung. The special effects were a team effort from Brendan Mainush (The Young and the Restless TV series), Jordanne Eggie (The Assignment 2017), Meghan Judge (WoodMan 2017) and Millspictures Studios.
3 Hours Till Dead starts off like so many other horror movies. A bunch of friends tooling around in the woods get into some trouble and realize that there’s something unnatural and bloodthirsty going on. Unlike other genre films, these characters are not stereotypical plugins. Joe (Vladimir Zaric: Pendulum 2015) is ex-military, but instead of being a chest pounding jarhead, he’s craven, a cowardly soldier who went AWOL and never told his friends. His brother, Stu (stunt coordinator Hans Porter: Desturbia 2015), is not the hand-holding, understanding sibling – he’s a whiny jerk who calls Joe out at every opportunity.
Joe’s best friend, Mikey (Chris Walters: Daedalus 2017), is the laid back comic relief, although there’s not even one pot pipe or practical joke in his arsenal. The girls, Kylie (Amy Muc: Follow Me 2015) and Sonja (Marisa Crockett: Anything At All 2013) start off as crying nonentities, but later on, Sonya toughens up and kicks some major ass. Halfway through the film, we get to meet misogynist woman beater and gun owner Gary (Darren Andrichuk: The Last Audition 2011) and his submissive captive Rebecca (Delia Tatiana: Eternity Tomorrow 2015). It was refreshing to see these original albeit flawed (and sometimes despicable) characters in a horror film.
I absolutely loved Joe’s character. Vladimir Zaric’s depiction of Joe was stunning for such a new actor. He portrayed Joe’s terror, regret and determination beautifully. If it were possible, I’d love to see Joe Ryder show up in more Veritas Ventures movies – not to mention Zaric, whom I believe is going places in the acting world. Don’t let this guy slip by, directors!
I was impressed that Mills was aware of his practical effects budget, and rather than spending his money on half-assed makeup for all of his zombies (called “passers” in 3 Hours Till Dead), he kept the background zombies out of focus or slightly off center so he could draw the most attention and detail to the main creatures – the ones we see a lot of. The sound the passers’ teeth made as they clicked together was also pretty inspired. I especially loved the car zombie smudging her bloody face all over the passenger side window and licking the glass like something out of Evil Dead. The shot of Stu jumping up on the RV hood while the couple cowered inside was especially sweet. The closing credit sequence was also pretty cool, showing a new group coming upon the wreckage left at the house by the main characters.
What Didn’t Work
The few things I didn’t like about 3 Hours Till Dead are more nitpicks than anything. The description of the film implies that the group was in hiding to keep Joe from being arrested for being AWOL, but according to the dialogue, the group had just gone on a camping trip. There were some issues with the sound either bogging out or not matching up, but not enough to be distracting. I wasn’t sure what the deal was with the flies. There were flies in so many shots. Were they intentional? If so, why?
Also, there was never any explanation as to why some passers were fast and some were slow. I initially thought the ones about to hit their three hour mark were the ones that slowed down, but that didn’t seem to be the case. As a matter of fact, there was only one passer that died after three hours, and the whole thing was more of an afterthought than a main part of the film. Shouldn’t that have been more of a plot point in a movie called 3 Hours Till Dead?
All in all, I enjoyed 3 Hours Till Dead much more than I thought I would. I took it for granted that this would be just another zombie movie, but I was proven wrong and I was so glad. The film will hit select theaters and VOD in just a few days on April 21st, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. You can also pre-order the film here in the US and here in Canada. Drop me a note and let me know if you liked it as much as I did!