Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

All Souls Day: Dia de los muertos (2005)

... aka: All Souls Day
... aka: Dia de los muertos
... aka: West of the Dead

Directed by:
Jeremy Kasten

In the 19th Century, Vargas Diaz (Danny Trejo, the bartender in all three FROM DUSK TILL DAWN movies) discovers the "tomb of the goddess of death" in a small Mexican village. He hires townspeople to help retrieve the treasure, promising to split the profits with them. Instead, he lures every citizen of the village into the mine where the valuables were located and blows it up. After doing in eight of his faithful men with poisoned win to ensure a 100% profit margin, he gets involved in a gunfight and accidentally shoots his own young son. Around a hundred years later (in 1952), Thomas White (Jeffrey Combs) and his family; wife (Ellie Cornell, from HALLOWEEN 4 and 5), 19-year-old blonde daughter and young son in arm braces (from polio), take a pit stop in the same small town on their way to the beach. They go to a hotel and notice the people there are acting incredibly strange (and no one has signed the guest book for almost a decade), but decide to stay anyway. Son Ricky ends up being possessed by an evil spirit. Daughter Lilly (who's nice enough to treat viewers to a topless bathtub scene first) is attacked by an elderly woman downstairs, only to stumble outside and be devoured by zombies (i.e. the resurrected people killed in the mine). And the parents, well we learn later that they were just hacked to pieces with a hatchet.

Fifty-three years later, newly-engaged college students Alicia (Marisa Ramirez) and Joss (Travis Webster) are traveling through Mexico in route to visiting her parents. They wreck their car in the same small town where all this bad s--t is taking place during (gasp!) Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead to us Yanks), when all the dead are rumored to walk the Earth. Immediately, the duo discover a distraught young woman named Esmeralda who has had her tongue removed. Thankfully, a friendly American sheriff (David Keith) is in town and ready to take control of the situation. Unfortunately, he's also the same possessed little boy from 1952, all grown up and committing his own human sacrifice rituals. He kills Esmeralda for giving him too much trouble and then plots to sacrifice Alicia, because apparently only a beautiful young Mexican woman will work in the ceremonies.

Alicia and Joss check into a local hotel decorated with altars, crosses and skulls, where Former Miss USA Laura Harring (also in David Lynch's MULHOLLAND DR.) and some old psychic woman mope around, acts strange and offer up drugged wine and bread to sedate their guests. Joss, who is arrogant, obnoxious and pretty irritating all around, phones his black pre-med friend Tyler and Tyler's blonde "vacuous cheerleader" girlfriend Erica (Nichole Hiltz) to come down and pick them up. He and Alicia promptly screw (I guess finding mutilated people in the road really turns them on), more weird stuff happens, Tyler and Erica arrive, the four make small talk (lame "trendy" SCREAM-like dialogue with horror movie references; ugh) and then the zombies finally show up to try to eat everyone. You go zombies. Eat 'em all up. Please. In an all-too-familiar NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD situation, they board up the doors and windows while the mini zombie army try to get inside. Oh yeah, and wouldn't ya know it... Vargas is still alive and well at 150 years old and living in a secret room in the hotel (he is who the ghouls are really trying to get at). Alicia put it best when she solemnly intones, "This place is fucked up! These people are crazy!"

The whole thing is pretty mindless and fails to generate any atmosphere despite the setting and some good make-up fx. It also comes complete with one of the dumbest horror movie character actions in recent memory. Hell, it almost tops the girl-who-jumps-into-a-fiery-inferno-to-be-with-her-dead-boyfriend scene in CHILDREN OF THE CORN 5. After Tyler is attacked by a few dozen flesh-munching ghouls, Erica drives away to a safe distance and can clearly see her boyfriend is history. So instead of just driving off like any normal person would do, she puts the car in reverse, goes right back into the middle of the pack of zombies, opens the passenger side door and tries to yank his dead body back into the car with her!! Thankfully, she quickly gets her throat ripped out for being such a stupid bitch.

Well, in any case, All Souls Day is not a very good later-day showcase for horror icon Jeffrey Combs, who had appeared in the director's previous effort THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS (2001). His performance is fine (and it's always nice to see him in anything), but he doesn't get to do or say anything noteworthy during his short time on screen. Hell, even his death is off-screen and he isn't even seen as a zombie. Newcomer Ramirez shows some potential (and has no problems with nudity). It debuted on the Sci-Fi Channel.


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