SIEGE OF THE DEAD (Chris Kaylor, 2001) – the best indie zombie film of 2001

A decomposing zombie in the forest.

Siege of the Dead (2001)
Directed, Shot, Edited by: Chris Kaylor Produced by: Chris Kaylor, Doug LaVigne, Kurt Zettlemoyer
Cast: Doug LaVingne, Maggie Andrichak, Joshua Spearing, D.W. Beck, Kurt Zettlemoyer

Chris Kaylor’s indie zombie epic SIEGE OF THE DEAD is a fast-paced, violent and entertaining love letter to Romero’s undead films.

The filmmakers use a mixture of rudimentary CGI and very decent DIY practical effects (basically blood packs under clothes for zombie bites) to depict zombie mayhem.

The film was apparently shot in rural Georgia, completed in 2001 and posted for free online in 2006. At the time SIEGE OF THE DEAD was made, the zombie genre was going through a pretty dry phase. At that point no significant zombie film has come out since CEMETERY MAN (1994). RESIDENT EVIL or 28 DAYS LATER haven’t been released yet, and even George A. Romero himself was struggling to get any of his scripts produced. Stuff like SHAUN OF THE DEAD and Snyder’s DAWN OF THE DEAD was still a few years away. In 2000, Charles Band produced THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING!, a very decent straight to video zombie film, a spoof of THE BEYOND. One of the relatively few zombie films from 2001 would have been Tor Ramsay’s CHILDREN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Now, SIEGE OF THE DEAD is easily twenty times more competent and entertaining than CHILDREN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Yet SIEGE OF THE DEAD has remained obscure to this day. Why would that be?

Yes, all the shortcomings of a no-budget indie movie are there: weak acting, pretty unimaginative dialogue, almost no foley or incidental effects beyond gunshots. Unlike Romero’s best films, there is no interesting independent female character in SIEGE OF THE DEAD. In fact, none of the characters in the film can be even remotely described as interesting or original. There’s also a fairly crappy and random nightmare sequence. But the filmmakers get the most important things right: the story moves along quickly with zombie attacks every few minutes. For what it is, SIEGE OF THE DEAD works just awesome.

There are thousands of really dull and disappointing zombie films out on home video which are far crappier than this indie gem. Yet SIEGE OF THE DEAD has no known home video release to date. This film was among the pioneering early works shot in the then emerging digital video format. According to director/producer/editor Kaylor, the film was mastered at 320×480 resolution, which makes any sort of physical release unlikely. Who knows, maybe the amazing people over at Bleeding Skull could think up a way of bringing SIEGE OF THE DEAD out on disc?

SIEGE OF THE DEAD is currently available on YouTube in its entirety. The film is well worth a watch for zombie fanatics, aspiring filmmakers and indie horror film buffs. Now that it’s about to turn twenty years old, it also has that nostalgia value, with its early digital video colour palette and a very period soundtrack, It’s an amazingly accomplished film which belies its clearly no-budget roots. The really sad thing is that, for all its merits and entertainment value, SIEGE OF THE DEAD isn’t even listed on the IMDb.

The director and most of the main cast also appear in the film playing zombies.

Reviewed in December 2020