Charlie is living through a long-distance relationship when a virus starts spreading. The viral outbreak is quickly moving across America, and the two of them decide to meet in a small town that is near enough for it to be possible for them both. The only thing keeping Charlie alive is the memories of his relationship. But is everything really as great as he remembers, and is it worth risking his life over?
Is there a point to me bringing up how bored I am of the zombie genre, yet again? How they just keep getting worse and worse? Or will that just make me seem like a grumpy old man? In some matters I am a very grumpy and very old man - this is one of those matters. The zombie genre bores the hell out of me. What used to excite me, things such as hordes of zombies and lots of munching, is now just crap. Of course, that's because the films aren't doing it right - I still love the hell out of "Re-Animator" and "Braindead", and the likes. I also love the more dramatic approach of "Night of the Living Dead". That's sort of where "Dead Weight" comes in - it's far from the munch-ridden zombie films. Hell, there are only a few scenes that even involve the zombies.
The story starts by establishing that our lead, Charlie, and his girlfriend are currently struggling with a long-distance relationship. He's at home on his day off, slacking, when his girlfriend calls him to notify him of a viral outbreak that is spreading. He switches on the TV and sees a news report about it, and quickly decides that they have to meet in a small town. The two hang up, and we follow Charlie as he slowly reaches his destination. Now and then we get some glimpses from their relationship, and find out that they've been together for quite some time and Charlie is now starting to feel like his girlfriend is moving on to a new phase of her life, while he is stuck where he is. But Charlie's determined to reach the small town and meet his love, but it's a long way to go. On the way he meets a group of people and the group eventually learn to trust each other. Of course, you never know when people change when their lives are in danger.
For the most part, "Dead Weight" is perfectly executed as the drama that it really is. We're drawn to the characters, we relate to their problems, and we just want Charlie to reach his destination before it's too late. It quite interesting as I didn't really know if this was a zombie film or just a weird virus film until much later, simply because the zombies are far from the main focus - they just work as a way of putting our characters in these positions. The jumping between outbreak and pre-outbreak works as intended and by the end of the film, where a very interesting change occurs, I was slightly heartbroken. The entire film depends on this ending, and had it been different and more upbeat, then I would've enjoyed the film a bit less (although, just a bit).
But "Dead Weight" does fall into a lot of the clichées of similar genres, and it's impossible for me to dismiss that. I can, however, say that these are things that are expected to occur simply BECAUSE of the genre. The plot points that do matter are far from as cliché, and I was caught by surprise by several aspects, such as character development. Considering where the film started, almost like a quirky stoner comedy, and how where it ends, I couldn't be more satisfied with the results. It's just an interesting ride, both mentally and physically. At the end of the day, it does make you think about some of your choices in life and that's more than I can say about the majority of zombie films out there.
You'd have to be a prick to lump "Dead Weight" in with most modern zombie films. It's far from that. It's not really even a zombie movie OR horror movie. It's a drama for the most part, and it works the genre perfectly. It's inevitable for it to eventually fall into some clichées that I have grown bored of, but because the movie so quickly stands back up and brushes off the dirt, I think it's easy to forgive it for its flaws. At times you might find the constant flashbacks to the relationship of the two a bit tedious, but by the end of the film they've served a very important purpse. The flashbacks made us care, and it's ultimately what makes it effective. All of this and great acting keeps "Dead Weight" far above other mediocre films of similar nature.