Filmmaker Jeff Ferrell found influence from screenwriter and director Eric Red, and many others for his version of a serial killer, named The Ladykiller in his latest movie, which uses the basis of psychology to understand and convey it to the audiences especially involving the topics of addiction to love and violence. This all filtered into his movie, Dead West, which took 12-days and close to 30-locations to shoot the very telling story of his suave killing machine, which is actually quite impressive, as indie movies usually stay with three or fewer locations, for both cost and logistics. In addition, he, as the writer, took the time with the screenplay, provide at least three rewrites, and worked to flesh out not only the lead roles, but equally importantly the secondary and minor characters motivations, thereby generating a stronger storyline and overall, a compelling movie. His creation came to him while working on his first feature movie Ghostlight  and discussing it with then star of that film, Brian Sutherland, about the concept of it. RLJ Entertainment signed on to distribute the film and provide a solid DVD with commentary and a Documentary on the movie too quiet especially since it includes the impressive composer Semih Tareen.
Dead West, from title one expects a western or even country theme storyline, sad to report, not exactly rather it combines horror elements along with thriller, that hints about the travel cross country on the forgotten highway, rather than the interstates of nothingness. Early and clearly, one learns of the Ladykiller, portrayed effectively well by Brian Sutherland, and his charismatic style and bouts of romanticism, boil down his interesting mannerisms with desire at any given the moment. The displeasure of not knowing his name to the carefree attitude of wanton sexual bliss, even though, he used tons of aliases, and happily murders many that cross his path, a fate unto them. The Ladykiller’s morals against those that hurl insults, or those that beat and bully children and women, though he does teach lesson to those that disrespect each other, a crusader no, but a killer with his own moral compass. Another interesting development in the creation of this killer, Ferrell (who also stars in the movie) understands the killer’s psychology, some real-life killers used an ambush style, however herein the flick, uses words or charm, similar to Ted Bundy, lured in the prey. A few interesting moments or turning points in the film occur with respect of a confrontation with a previous victim’s sibling portrayed by Jeffrey Arrington, who learns the difficulties in killing and the morality of it. Look for a touching performance from Carollani Sandberg as Charlene, and Ferrell knows he needs to break the tension, hence the minor character of Aurelio Voltaire as Sug White, a drug dealer, with some very color lines and interest wardrobe attire. The borrows a familiar line found in many horror films dealing with serial killers, touch on the theme of love, can love to kill the beast, for this film the answer lies in Roxy (Meagan Naser), one needs to watch the film to learn the answer.
The film uses many bright vibrant colors that harkened back to the works of Argento and Bava, and this helps to produce the rights that offset the natural light moments of the wonderful landscapes. The location selections fit perfectly and all handle by the director Ferrell, as the film no luxury of production designer or set decorator. In fact, one of the locations, the famous Oxbow Park’s Hat and Boots, a super-large cowboy hat and pair of cowboy boots, and an important meaningful spot in the film. While the film handles most everything nicely with an experience cast, many whom worked with Ferrell before, one goof does exist, it seems our killer never gets any blood on his white t-shirt even he’s supposedly stabbing people, though never actually clearly show. Lastly, and yet extremely important, often overlooked, but not here the music and score of the film, handle effectively well by Semih Tareen (makes an early cameo), who not only used a combination of both orchestral, but also, enjoy using the classic (and rebirth) of the synthesizer sounds. He even expanded to playing every-possible genre of music into the film running the gambit very well from heavy metal to country (supplied mainly by artist and actor Aurelio Voltaire) to rap. Many moments in the movie, one can sense the power of music as it takes hold and shape with regard to the killer and even overlapping during the playing of scenes Maniac (1980), all of it precision perfect.
One may approach Dead West with apprehension; however, they will discover great rewards with the movie, which does seem at times like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), but the overall tone never gets as washed out grayness to the picture. The characters stretch the arc of the story, with solid believable actions, and one at times might side with The Ladykiller, some of his reasons and actions work beneficial to quirky results. This movie really generates a power score, and solid storytelling, a chance to enjoy a good independent movie. If you like the movie, seriously consider purchasing the movie, the extras while minor, full of wonderful information.
IMDb Rating: 3.6/10
Baron’s Rating: 3.5/10
This review was originally written for the now defunct Rogue Cinema website in February 2017.