Aaron K. Carter’s Dead Kansas is an old-school B-Movie horror/comedy romp in the Zombieland of Kansas after a disease has turned most of the population into the walking dead, whom the living refer to as “rottens.” In this wasted land, a gang of metalheads with military gear are looking for something to barter for goods and food. They hit upon the idea of kidnapping a local woman named Emma (Erin Miracle) from her father Glenn’s (Aaron Guerrero) farm nearby. The pretty young female would make the perfect bargaining chip for them to present to a local warlord and would become unwilling breeding stock to bring him children, repopulating the area. This genius master plan is conceived by Jebediah (Michael Camp), leader of the gang. When they visit Glenn and Emma, a series of events powers the story as characters fight for their lives.
Dead Kansas started as a web series. The feature film is made up of the episodes concatenated together to present the whole experience in one shot, dividing the film into one short act for each episode. The production quality is low-fi, but that actually works in favor of this film to convey a gritty sense of unreality and “anything-can-happen” madness. The thrash metal soundtrack also lends the perfect fuzzy noise anxiety-inducing tone to the scenes.
“…they hit upon the idea of kidnapping a local woman named Emma…“
It’s beyond ridiculous to quantify the ways in which this film stretches credibility, but that’s partly why we’re here, so let’s get into it. Emma is a beautiful young woman surrounded by men in an apocalyptic world full of dangers around every corner. Yet, despite the difficult conditions, she’s always clean, with perfect hair, immaculate make-up, and wearing a dress. This seems wildly impractical. Another interesting challenge to the suspension of disbelief is that there’s never a zombie (er, “rotten”) on-screen. Instead, when there’s an attack, we see the action through the eyes of the rotten who is attacking. The twist here is that when the camera pulls back, there is no undead creature to be seen. It’s a Raimi-esque move, and it is clever. There are a lot of creative touches along those lines that elevate it beyond the usual web offerings. Snide side note: An argument could be made that the title is redundant, as anyone who’s been to Kansas can attest.
At its heart, Dead Kansas is a raucous celebration of lowbrow zombie cinema tradition. Watch it as the beginning of a double feature with Bad Girls to round out your drive-in theater night. There’s also something here to offend everyone, as a good grindhouse movie should have. Carter ticks off all the checkboxes he can get into an hour’s runtime. It’s an impressive list, including every cringy thing from misogyny, racism, and exploited circus freaks to ignorant, violent incels. Then he adds an overwrought string-tie-wearing Southern bigot named Rusty (Kevin C. Beardsley), whose accent lands somewhere between Colonel Sanders and Foghorn Leghorn. The film’s best part is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. This whole thing looks like it was a ton of fun to make and is definitely fun to watch.