I’ve seen my share of misleading DVD covers, but Storm of the Dead might take the cake. A more accurate representation of both the content and the quality of the film would be the original Photoshop hatchet job of a poster:
Even the tagline is misleading: “In the swamp, there are many ways to die! Gators! Quicksand! Poisonous snakes! ZOMBIES!” Too bad none of these actually appear in the movie. Any film titled [NOUN] of the Dead should probably consider revolving around zombies somehow. To be fair, SOTD does throw in one nominal zombie, but not until the last five minutes of the film — hardly enough to consider it “of the dead.” What we get instead is Southern-fried voodoo, some well-intentioned post-Katrina social commentary, and heaps of inertia. The value of SOTD, though, is that it’s one of the very few non-all-black horror films to feature both a black hero AND a black villain.
The story opens in the aftermath of Hurricane Xiora, which has battered the Florida panhandle (as opposed to, as Homer Simpson puts it, the “wang”). Martial law has been declared, a curfew is in effect, and looters are to be shot on sight. The state militia seems to take this order too seriously, though, as we find them tracking a suspected looter (Carlos Guity; see Ghetto Dweller type) all the way into the Florida swamps. Can’t a black man run through a marsh with two bulging sacks tied to his back without getting harassed by the cops?!?
Perhaps in order to avoid any racial innuendo, the leader of the militia team, Sergeant Barnes (Todd Terry) is also black (see Authority Figure type). He explains to his reluctant men that it’s their job to track down looters, adding that “The President don’t want another Katrina on his hands.” They finally catch up to the guy, who turns and pulls a gun, shooting two of the militiamen before Barnes kills him. When it’s discovered that the looter’s bags are filled with baby food and diapers, the militia dudes begin to feel sorry — as if the guy didn’t SHOOT FIRST. Soon, though, they’re not feeling anything, because the looter’s grandmother (Yvone Williamson) sneaks up behind them and uses a voodoo doll (see Voodoo Doer type) to snap their necks or spines or something crunchy and fatal.
When the team fails to return to home base, another group is dispatched, again led by a black guy (Note to self: Join the Army). This time it’s Lieutenant Hutchinson (J. Todd Smith), who has the look of a poor man’s Laurence Fishburne or an upper-middle class man’s Kadeem Hardison. It just so happens that Hutch’s grandmother was a voodoo practitioner who gave him an amulet to protect him from evil; I’m sure that won’t come into play at any point.
Hutch is ordered to take along bubbly blonde “weather girl” Lisa Hicks (Karin Justman), who for some reason is doing meteorological investigative reporting…? What does that even mea — oh look, boobies! If nothing else, Storm of the Dead at least presents us with topless women to ease the pain of this otherwise tedious production — at least, theoretically. The pain still exists, thanks in no small part to torturous attempts at locker room banter and extended scenes of the actors trudging through the wilderness, desperately trying to look militaristic. One scene in particular has them hiking for OVER FIVE AND A HALF MINUTES with no dialogue or action whatsoever.
Soon, the voodoo priestess, disguised as an “irresistible” doughy nekkid woman, infiltrates the militia’s ranks (rather than raise an army of zombies to get revenge, as the title would imply) and picks them off one by one with her voodoo doll. Why she doesn’t just kill ’em all at once, I don’t know, but if it means more riveting hiking action, sign me up! By the end of the movie, we learn that looting is OK under certain circumstances (Granted, we never do see this “baby” that the stolen diapers were for; maybe dude just had a fetish?). And if it means busting caps in the Florida militia without provocation, so be it.
On a side note, there’s a relatively rare interracial love story amidst all of the boredom; horny Lisa can’t keep her paws off of Hutch, who eventually succumbs to her Caucasoid wiles — although the affair is never consummated. Maybe if I conjure up Storm of the Dead 2 — oh look, boobies!