Color, 2016, 114 mins. 30 secs.
Directed by Jeff Ferrell
Starring Brian Sutherland, Meagan Naser, Tony Arrington, Carollani Sandberg, Katie Michels, Bethany Jacobs, Michael Joseph Draper
RLJ Entertainment (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

In Dead Westthe follow-up film to his standout Dead Westsupernatural yarn Ghostlight, director Jeff Ferrell turns to more terrestrial terrors with this look at murder and retribution in the American West. Shot in areas around Seattle, Washington, it's a modest but stylish little thriller that will perplex anyone expecting a graphic kill-fest but delivers some haunting little grace notes of its own if you're in a receptive mood.

Assuming a string of different names at various country bars and fleabag motels, a likable but unstable man billed only as the Ladykiller (Sutherland) goes out of his way to romance women who might fill the void in his violence-scarred life. However, each one inevitably says or does the wrong thing that sets him off, though he wants to abide by his own moral code fending off abusive parents or victims. Despite complications along the way like the ticked-off brother of a previous victim tracking him down, the method behind his madness only becomes clearer as he thinks he may have finally found the woman of his dreams.

The decision to tell this story with a minimum of on-screen carnage is an interesting one here, and it's likely to tick off more than a fair share of its target audience. However, as a Dead WestDead Westpsychological horror film it's surprisingly unpredictable with a few strange zigs and zags along the way, not to mention a few standout moments like a great drive-in sequence (during a Bill Lustig double feature!) with a certain infamous moment from Maniac providing the only full-on gore in the film. As with Ghostlight, the decision to shoot the feature digitally hampers the atmosphere in a few moments, but the bold, often psychedelic color schemes that pop up from time to time still look great and give the film an uncanny sense of existing outside of the physical United States as we know it.

Dead West is currently available on physical media as a standard DVD from RLJ Entertainment and via HD or SD on-demand streaming or purchase, though only the DVD option gives you some very meaty special features. Ferrell, Sutherland, and composer Semih Tareen appear for a very Dead Westfast-paced audio commentary in which they start off explaining the genesis of the film between the director and star to see if they could make a Dead Westserial killer film with little to no violence, leading to a detailed account of the production covering everything from car scouting to uses of actors' real hair while touching on themes like the effects of violence on growing children. An incredibly extensive making-of documentary (68m52s) with interviews featuring the director and cast structuring a heavy helping of behind-the-scenes footage. Highlights include Tareen demonstrating how he created a sound like "horns from the depths of hell" and very enthused actor Aurelio Voltaire in costume explaining how he approached the film's most bizarre character, wannabe-black pimp Sug White, and contributed to the soundtrack. Image quality is very good for SD and looks quite impressive if you upscale it, with the intense stylized lighting really popping off the screen at times.

Reviewed on August 13, 2017.