January 23, 2006

DVD Review: All Souls Day

All Souls Day began life on the Sci-Fi Channel as one of their original films. I remember watching it and not really thinking all that much of it. Now, here we are, a few months later, and Anchor Bay has just released the film in all of its uncut zombie filled glory. Well, sort of.

The movie starts in the late 1800's, when the head honcho of a small Mexican town kills all of its residents during a celebration. The celebration was on the Day of the Dead when they were also celebrating the discovery of ancient treasure. Of course, fearless leader, Vargas (Danny Trejo)wants it for himself, and buries the townsfolk alive inside the mine. Fast forward to the 1950's. A family, led by patriarch Jeffrey Combs, arrives in the town looking for a gas station and place to spend the night. What they find are creepy woman, and a horde of zombies intent on separating the Combs family from their lives. Fast forward again, after a presumably successful zombie attack, we are now in the present day, where the bulk of our story takes place.

Joss (Travis Wester) and Alicia (Marisa Ramirez, a dead ringer for Jessica Alba) are raveling through Mexico, on their way to Alicia's folks new ranch. Needing a place to stop, they stumble upon this cursed town. They arrive just in time to narrowly avoid running over a funeral procession, and in turn, discovering a naked, living woman tumble out of the coffin. Turns out she had her tongue cut out and was set to be used as a sacrifice.

Joss and Alicia, just think that there are some weird folks in the area. In order to help pass the time, they place a call to a couple of pals, Tyler and Nicole, to come down and join them. Warnings from the hotel's hostess, Esmeralda, fall on deaf ears until it is too late. Dios de la muertos is upon us. The zombies have risen from the ground in search of blood, and revenge. It is during the final act that the truth is revealed, although it is a little convoluted and doesn't explain everything, there it is.

This movie is rather straightforward, even if it doesn't answer all the questions or fill in the inconsistencies. The acting is strictly B level, as is the script and directing. There is one thing that it has going for it, energy. It looks as if everyone involved are putting there all into the ultimately flawed work. The most ridiculous point having to be when the blond girl does this flip off the porch onto the roof and goes into Buffy mode on the zombies. It was so goofy and out of place that you won't be able to help but laugh.

There are a number of things that are out of place, or stupid things that characters do, such as when Tyler goes around to the side of the car with the zombies to get in, followed by blondie trying to save him when he's already dead. The hole Buffy attack is kind of silly, too. Then there are the plot points, like Esmeralda and the old woman forever being in the hotel, the reasons for the sacrifices, and why the sheriff was still alive.

Video. The movie is presented in 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen, and it looks pretty good. There are a few scenes which are overly dark, but nothing too extreme. Overall, for a low budget affair, it looks quite good.

Audio. The audio is presented in two flavors of Dolby Digital, 5.1 and 2.0. I listened using the 5.1 track. Overall, it sounds good, but there are faults in the source. It sounds as if the audio used was live on the set, with little or no ADR. This results in varying quality as the actors move around in relation to the microphone, they fade at times. It is rather annoying. Still, the actual track itself is good.

Extras. Anchor Bay has done another good job, delivering a nice package for a film that probably doesn't deserve it.
-Raising the Undead: The Making of All Souls Day. This runs about 36 minutes and combines interview and on set footage to take us behind the scenes. Highlights, for me anyway, include producer Chuck Speed how they made this after loosing control of House of the Dead, and Danny Trejo comparing the director to Robert Rodriguez.
-Faces of Death: The Makeup Effects of All Souls Day. This runs 16 minutes and gives a look at the makeup design and acting training of the movies zombies. Most of the makeup looks good in the movie, sometimes the harsh daylight of the featurette really exposes the appliances. This is an entertaining segment.
-Jailhouse Rock: The Stunts of All Souls Day. Another 16 minutes takes us inside the stunts, focusing on the goofy Buffy sequence.
-Commentary. The track features director Jeremy Kasten and Producer Mark Altman. I have not listened, but have read that it carries over the exuberance experienced in the featurettes.
-Deleted Scene. A single scene is included.
-Extended Scene.
-Storyboard Gallery.
-Screenplay. The entire screenplay is included as a DVD-ROM feature.

Bottomline. Not a terribly good movie, but it does benefit from the positive energy. The story could have used a good deal of tightening. Still, this is a fun film to watch on an evening with nothing else to do, especially if you are a fan of MST3K.

Very Mild Recommendation.


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