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Film / Dead Air (2009)

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"Folks... uh... it appears that there may be a situation... please, uh... please stay tuned..."

After violent riots suddenly break out in downtown Los Angeles, radio talk show host Logan Burnhardt and his crew become stranded, barricaded alone in their broadcast studio and unable to leave for fear of being swept up in the chaos. As rumors begin to filter in about a bombing at a nearby arena and mass hysteria sweeping over the city, Logan decides that it is his responsibility to report what is happening to his listeners, both to keep them aware and to hopefully help save lives.

As the night progresses, the phone calls become stranger and stranger – listeners report seeing mobs of people in a bestial state, violently attacking police officers, civilians, and even young children. Making things even worse is that the attackers seem to be impervious to weapons, not to mention the fact that their victims quickly rise to join in the frenzy.

Reports start to pour in confirming similar bombings and riots in major cities across the United States. Struggling to maintain his composure in the face of the spreading madness, Logan also grows increasingly terrified at his inability to contact his wife and daughter. They're far from the last of his worries, however, as he and his crew will soon discover that they are not alone in their building after all...

Dead Air is a Sci-Fi Horror film released on DVD in 2009, directed by Corbin Bernsen and written by Kenny Yakkel. The cast includes Bill Moseley, Patricia Tallman, David Moscow and Navid Negahban.

Not to be confused with the Truth in Television phenomenon of the same name, the 2007 Hong Kong horror film directed by Xavier Lee Pak Tat, or the novel of the same name by Iain Banks. Or, for that matter, the Zombie-riffic third campaign of Left 4 Dead or the song by the same name by Rufus Rex.

Dead Air contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Ineffective Barricade: After the crew realize that their building is smack in the middle of a Technically Living Zombie Apocalypse, they all decide to start barricading the doors to their studio. While the male crew members busy themselves stacking up heavy tables and filing cabinets, Lucy contributes by setting a small potted plant on the pile.
    Logan: And that's supposed to do what?
    Lucy [walking off]: Fuck you.
  • Author Filibuster: Delivered via Logan's voiceover at the end of the film.
    Tens of thousands of years of human history, millions of years of evolution, and still when we build something, as often it's to destroy as to create. That cycle of vengeance is like a blight on society – a literal blight – and not just our society, but human society. We're all victim to the same terrible impulses. And until we can find a way to redirect our energies toward the good, intead of that darkness... God help us all.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: Gil, who's turned, does this through the door of the room Logan's wife and daughter are hiding in.
  • Black Dude Dies First: The security guard at the radio station, while not technically the first on-screen death, is the first of the named characters to die as the Synthetic Plague spreads through the city.
  • Clothing Damage: One of the first victims near the radio station has her shirt torn in half by an infected mob, revealing a bare breast. The fanservice of this scene is limited, however, as she is violently beaten before rising as a blood-spattered zombie to attack a security guard.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Corbin Bernson appears briefly as DJ "Doc F" in the beginning of the film to deliver a single line while Logan is walking in late to the studio.
    Logan: Hey Doc!
    Doc: Ah, he arrives... Megan! Hold the door!
  • Dead Air: TV news broadcasts of the burgeoning Technically Living Zombie Apocalypse shock the protagonist DJ and his sidekick into momentary silence, leading to a panicked reaction from their producer, Lucy.
  • Downer Ending: Implied. Not only is Logan's wife revealed (to the audience) to have been scratched by an infected, Logan himself is coughing quite a bit in spite of having taken the anti-venom.
  • Dueling Movies: With Pontypool, another 2009 film about a Dumbass DJ trapped in his broadcast booth with his colleagues in the middle of a (Not) Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Dumbass DJ: Logan displays the insulting qualities of one at first, even if he's hardly stupid. This gets dropped as the crisis worsens, and he switches from being a snarky bastard to genuinely trying to help.
  • Epigraph: The film opens with a quotation of Matthew 6:34 (KJV):
    Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: One of the first signs that a character has become infected.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Logan and his on-air sidekick Gil enjoy teasing and even insulting their more colorful callers, however both seek to do everything they can to help the citizens when the crisis starts, with Logan manning the airwaves to give advice to the survivors who are listening and Gil volunteering to venture out on his motorcycle to save Logan's wife.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol:
    • When one of the surviving terrorists loses his pouch of anti-venom that would prevent him from getting infected, his comrade hands him a pistol and leaves him with the following words:
      "There is not enough antivenom for the two of us. How you choose to leave this world is up to you."
  • Pretend Prejudice: Logan is forced to bad-mouth Muslims on the air by one of the terrorists, who are seeking to ignite a war between the Western and Arab worlds. His initial attempts at resistance (and the revelation that his wife is, in fact, Muslim) offer proof that he doesn't really mean what he's being forced to say.
  • Shout-Out: Logan's wife Gabbi has a copy of Spanish cinematographer Néstor Almendros' book A Man with a Camera in her room.
  • Synthetic Plague: The Hate Plague is revealed by one of the terrorists who unleashed it to have been a creation of the U.S. Defense Department, originally for use as a Depopulation Bomb against enemy cities in the Middle East.
  • Tears of Blood: These are one of the signs that a victim exposed to the Synthetic Plague will soon succumb.
  • Technically Living Zombie: The violent mobs are infected by a chemical agent released by terrorists, which causes them to violently attack any non-infected they see.
    • Very unusually for the zombie genre, these zombies can only last for a day or so at most before the virus kills them.
  • Title Drop: When the first news reports start coming in, Logan announces he's going to break and leaves his microphone. Producer Lucy is momentarily distracted by what she's seeing on TV, then:
    Lucy: [snapping to] Dead air... Burt, dead air! Go to a song or a commercial or something!
  • Use Their Own Weapon Against Them: The plot is set in motion by Middle Eastern Terrorists who get hold of an American-made Synthetic Plague and release it into various U.S. cities.
  • Working with the Ex: Logan Burnhardt works with his ex-wife Lucy, who is his producer. Very little romantic tension is shown between the two of them, as their relationship seems to have evolved to Just Friends status.
  • You Never Did That for Me: Used by Lucy when she overhears her ex, Logan, promise to pick up his current wife's brother from the airport.
    Lucy: You never picked up my brother from the airport!
    Logan: But, you never asked me to!
    Lucy: ... that's because I knew you'd say no.
  • Zombie Infectee: Burt reveals that he was scratched while fighting off an infected, and asks the others whether he should be worried. Logan asks if he's bleeding anywhere – he's not – and then assures him he'll be fine. This turns out to be wrong.