When Syfy and The Asylum announced that ‘90s boy bands The Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, 98 Degrees, and O-town would be joining up for zombie/spaghetti western Dead 7, no one thought that it was going to be good. Not for a second. But we did think it would be entertaining. We gleefully hypothesized about coordinated zombie-killing dance numbers and West Side Story snap battles between N’Sync and The Backstreet Boys. We hoped that the boys would appear from white, over-saturated light with dry ice billowing around them. We wanted someone (probably Howie Dorough or Joey Fatone) to see a zombie and scream like Simon Pegg from Shaun of the Dead. We wanted Nick Carter to croon at a zombie, settling its animal rage. What we wanted, essentially, was a return to the feel-good ‘90s with a film that was reminiscent of Spice World, Home Alone, or the music video for “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).”
What we got was another low-budget, poorly written Syfy movie that, most damning of all, had nothing to do with the boys. No one quipped song lyrics or titles at each other. No one went by their real names. No one danced or sang. They just pretended that they were all real actors and that the network hadn’t used their fame and fans to boost ratings for a movie that wouldn’t have gotten half as many people to watch it.
The boys have no business being actors. Nick Carter and his wife Lauren Kitt Carter emoted less than the zombies chasing them. Poor Chris Kirkpatrick had the best lines and couldn’t figure out how to say them. AJ McLean rationalized that if he was always giggling, no one could see how badly he was acting. Poor Jeff Timmons tried so hard to evoke passion for Carrie Keagan but should have stuck to just flexing with his shirt off. Howie Dorough couldn’t maintain his ludicrous Mexican accent for more than a few works, and Erik-Michael Estrada had the screen presence of frightened gecko. It was hard to watch.
And yet, all of that could have been fine if everyone had just realized that none of them could act and it was a ridiculous premise in the first place. Howie could have purposefully dropped and exaggerated his accent, and Joey could have called him out on it. The boys could have been surrounded, and Jeff Timmons could have ziplined in out of no-where, guns blazing, and made a snarky comment. AJ could have screamed like a wounded bunny when seeing the zombies and had a nervous breakdown. Someone, anyone, could have shouted, “What do we do?” “I don’t know, we’re ex-boy banders, not zombie killers!” They could have had a suit-up moment where they find a cache of weapons and then emerged with an in-unison, “Backstreet’s Back – bitches.” When Lauren Carter tried to claim her grandmother had taught her all that fake Native American bullshit, Nick could have gone, “Honey, your grandmother lives in Phoenix and watches The Price is Right on repeat.” Howie could have been a terrible shot that somehow always got the target anyway through a complicated set of ricochets. Little Erik-Michael Estrada could have done his dumb “ninja” thing while Joey made fun of him constantly for always tripping over his feet and his dumb little bun. If someone, anyone, had just realized that this was going to be a clusterfuck from the beginning – and that it should have been – we would have had a really fun movie on our hands.
I understand that the boys are actually men, all of them in their 30s or 40s. I understand that they probably don’t want to drag their Teen Beat/Tiger Beat selves after them forever. I understand that they’re decent actors for a Syfy original movie. But if you’re going to bill a movie as ‘90s boy bands fighting zombies, and if you’re going to cast all the main characters from your boy band days, then you really should be utilizing the boy band persona – at least a little. Otherwise, you’re just setting your fans up for disappointment.
In the end, that’s all Dead 7 was. Yes, we got to see that Nick Carter and Jeff Timmons aged well. Yes, we got to see AJ and Joey acting like fools. But I can see that in their other work or on the cover of People Magazine. There was no reason to get my hopes up. There was no reason to trick long-time fans into thinking they were getting their boys back. Doing so was selfish and cruel, and it should have been beneath people who owe their fame and wealth to us. Dead 7 should have been a bloody, gory, hilarious love letter to the boys’ die-hard fans. Instead, it was just another way for them to make money off of us.