I have to admit that the first thing that attracted me to the 2004 revenge/slasher pic Dead Man's Shoes was not the reviews it was getting – which tended to characterize the film, either as a plus or a minus, as a sort of up-market slasher flick – but the cover image that pops up in Netflix. The violent anti-hero of the flick appears against a stark white background in an old gas-mask, looking like some cross between Halloween's "The Shape" and DC Comic's wonderful Golden Age Sandman character.
The reviews, which cast the film as a sort of "thinking man's" slasher, are accurate – providing that what thinking men really enjoy is long shots of people quietly walking places. You know, guys walking to an abandoned farm house. Then they walk to town. There are a bunch of unpaved roads, so some people walk on those. There are a lot of grass-covered rolling hills too, don't forget those. They walk the crap out of those hills, man. Walking champs, these guys.
Now all this silent walking is not entirely unmotivated. See there's a small English town dominated by a handful group of small-time villains. This gang of villains brutalized the town idiot, a slightly retarded teen named Anthony. Unbeknownst to this bullying band of chavs, Anthony's brother, Richard, is a former Special Forces type who doesn't take kindly to the treatment Anthony has received.
What follows is a veritable phantasmagoria of ominous walking. Richard walks to the town! From the town! Around inside the town! To other towns! This pulverizing peripatetic pedestrianism is periodically punctuated (very rarely) by some violent imagery. Richard slowly, methodically, on foot, takes out the gang one-by-one. Think of it as a lesson in tolerance and charity, given with extreme prejudice.
The violence isn't anything worse than you'd see in a generic 80's-style slasher, and it's certainly less hardcore than the bloodletting in splatpack slasher-revivals like High Tension. Mostly I suspect the violence we do see is there, along with some nice dialog that has the fresh and natural feel of good improv, because even the best walking can sometimes get monotonous. Not for me, you understand. I'm a huge walking fan. Can't get enough of it. I watched nearly three full seasons of Walker, Texas Ranger before figuring out that they never intended to live up to their promising title.
If I had to pick out a real highpoint in the film, I think I would have to underscore the moment when the auto of the gang breaks down. Suddenly, unexpectedly, they become walkers. Like Richard! The hunter and the hunted become mirror images! If mirrors walked, I mean.
I can't recommend Dead Man's Shoes highly enough for those who like their walking films to have a slight undertone of suspense and fear.