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Saturday, October 6, 2018

Locked Away (2017)




I’m at it again watching yet another low budget zombie movie. These things can be miserable to sit thru. But I’m a zombie fan so I keep doing it to myself. When I read the synopsis to Locked Away it seemed more interesting than what I normally expect from low budget zombie flicks, so I gave it a chance.

The movie starts off with an Iraq vet named Michael coming home to a small town. His family is happy to see him, and he seems glad to be home, but there is also something lurking under the surface. Before he gets a chance to start working some of his issues out a zombie outbreak happens, and everyone starts to eat each other. Michael gathers up what remains of his family and tries to escape with his recent ex-girlfriend (she was with someone else while he was deployed) only to run out of gas. They make it to the nearby school where they meet up with the science teacher who is working on a way to kill the zombies. Okay that is a little silly…

Of course, the guy who Michael’s ex-girlfriend cheated with shows up causing more tension among the survivors locked in the school. Some stuff happens, a way is discovered to destroy the zombies, Michael’s terrible secret is revealed, and we also get to see him be stone cold allowing something really bad to happen. Eventually the school is breached, and the survivors are left to run again. This leads to the finale that I really didn’t see coming. I watch a lot of independent zombie movies and this one surprised me.

I’m going to be as vague as I can be with the details of this review because this movie has some interesting things to offer. Locked Away does a decent, if not familiar telling of the first few hours of an outbreak. It has a fairly innocuous start and quickly gets out of hand. You have a small band of survivors that decreases upon each disastrous encounter with the undead. You know that people near and dear to the Michael character are going to die and they do. That brings an emotional impact to the story that triggers the revelation of what happened to him Iraq. The filmmakers take it in an interesting direction after his dirty laundry is aired and I applaud the story for not going where I thought it would after that.

Again, I’m being a bit vague, so I don’t spoil anything. The heart and soul of the movie is the character of Michael and the writing is so good that it works far better than I would have expected it to. The audience follows him thru this messed up journey from one warzone to another and sees how he reacts. I’d also like to talk about the actor who plays the lead. Travis Boswell plays Michael and does a great job. Some of the rest of the cast isn’t perfect and are clearly not professionals or simply don’t have any experience in front of the camera. But Boswell is in most every scene and carries the movie with his performance. It isn’t perfect, but this is far better than you can expect in a low budget movie. The guy has talent.

The Lead Zombie
There is one other thing that I have to mention before I move off from the story and characters. Whomever wrote, directed, and produced Locked Away did one simple thing that amazingly many of these flicks fail to do. They told a story that they had the budget, location, and cast to properly pull off. Instead of focusing on effects work or some crazy scale with tons of crappy CGI zombies they focused on character and story. They ended up telling a story that was interesting and had some emotional impact. Trying to be overly ambitious and failing is an easy way to distract your audience from what you have done well. These filmmakers were smart and creative enough to avoid this.

The zombies look great. You don’t get that feeling of “assembly” line makeup with most of them looking the same with grey faces. There is some thought put into the look of each one of the creatures we see on screen. I’m a nerd so I notice these sorts of things. The kills are mostly tame, but this isn’t the kind of movie that is about gore. Locked Away is more character based which is so unusual. The “weapon” that they develop to combat the zombies was initially silly to me until I thought about it. It is explained well and makes some sense. Plus, this allows them to create simple improvised weapons and avoid the expense of using firearms.

I could keep going on and on about this one. This is one of those unexpected movies that will stick with me for a long time. Locked Away is one that I would recommend to people that normally don’t watch independent horror because of the focus on character and story. I recommend everyone it out.


© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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