On paper, the premise of Dead West sounded intriguing: a drifter travels from town to town searching for romance but whenever things don’t work out he murders the girl. You think he would maybe try out Tinder or something to save gas money, but it is what it is.
The trailer and summary for the film call it a “revenge tale” but that occupies such a small part of the film that it ends up being disappointing. Brian Sutherland plays Billy, the charming serial killer who just wants someone to love him for who he is. Sutherland isn’t too bad in this role, though the writers try to give his character depth though these long and inane conversations that he has with his victims before he kills them. The dialogue is cringe-inducing and every scene goes on for way too long. Honestly, this film could have done with some serious editing and it runs just shy of two hours. There is too much repetition of Billy finding and wooing new murder victims and not enough actual narrative progression.
Another weird choice was to have all the killings occur off-screen—what’s the point of making a slasher film with no blood? I could see that working if the story was more compelling but most of the acting is mediocre save Sutherland and some gore could have made things a little more interesting. On the plus side, the sound and visuals look pretty good though the musical score sounds generic and cheesy. Most of the women are disposable and have no personality which is par for the course in these types of flicks. The most interesting side plot, which concerns the brother of one of the victims is resolved way too quickly and is quite anticlimactic. Those looking for a revenge thriller look elsewhere because that ain’t happening in Dead West.
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Overall, this is a slog of a film to get through. Although it is competently made, it’s too unfocused and boring which is one of the worst sins a horror/thriller film can commit. I found it kinda ironic that in one of the scenes Billy is at a drive-in theater and the film playing in the background is Maniac (1980) which is a far better use of a similar concept. Better luck next time!