Dead Air came out just before The Crazies (2010), the remake of George Romeros The Crazies (1973), premised around the idea of the accidental release of a military toxin that caused people to go insane. The remake had been rumoured for several years and there were a number of other films that came out around the period with a similar theme, including The Signal (2007), Nine Miles Down (2009), Salvage (2009), YellowBrickRoad (2010), Patient Zero (2012), Urge (2016), Mayhem (2017) and Mom & Dad (2017). To this extent, Dead Air, just like The Crazies 2010, sits on a close dividing line as to whether it works as a mass insanity film or can more properly be considered a zombie film. The infected here often behave more like zombies, including spreading the infection via a bite.
Whatever the case, Dead Air no relation to Dead Air (1994), the earlier film about a radio talkback host being stalked by a serial killer feels like a low-budget US attempt to copy the far superior Canadian-made Pontypool (2008). Both films have a near-identical premise and are focused around a radio talkback show as the host determines to remain on air while an outbreak of mass insanity occurs outside. In both films, most of this is relayed via live phone-in callers and later as the infected break into the studio and bite members of the station crew.
That said, Dead Air is a far less imaginative treatment of the idea. Pontypool dealt with a fascinating collapse of the entire English language, while Dead Air features little more than a standard zombie apocalypse taking place beyond the doors. Corbin Bernsen does a fair to reasonable effort in marshalling the actors and keeping their interactions tight during the studio-bound scenes but seems strictly in amateur city when it comes to the horror scenes. The zombie apocalypse is cheaply depicted and consists of not much more than a dozen figures crowding in on security guard Anthony Ray Parker and a few more trying to trap David Moscow on his motorcycle. Bill Moseley gives a solid performance but is no substitute for Stephen McHattie in the same role in Pontypool. The films ends on a disappointingly happy wrap-up for the outbreak the terrorists timed it to only last a matter of hours and then everything instantly returns to normal.
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