Anchor Bay // 2005 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 3rd, 2006
The dead shall nave their day
Hey look, another zombie movie!
The opening of the film takes us to the end of the 19th century, where a small mining town in Mexico is about to get smoked. A bastard of a despot named Vargas (Danny Trejo, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) has stumbled upon an amazing find in the caves: an artifact that will allow him to live forever. The catch is, it belongs to a dark goddess and he requires him to offer up a blood sacrifice. So he gives her the town, nuking the unsuspecting residents in a dynamite blast, securing his immortality, and dropping a big-ass curse on the village from then on.
Fast forward fifty years, and we meet the White family, a typical suburbanite cabal with caring parents, an obnoxious son, and a gorgeous daughter propelled by the need to disrobe and take spontaneous baths. The family ends up in that same village and takes shelter in the only inn available -- and the #$%& hits the fan almost immediately. They are terrorized by a crazy witch and her supernatural hijinks, and the son, in particular goes loopy.
Fast forward one more time to the present day. Young lovers Alicia (Marisa Ramirez, General Hospital) and Joss (Travis Wester) break down in that same village during a romantic getaway. Much to their chagrin, they find out their car will be incapacitated for at least a day, and are forced to kick back in that same hotel. Later that night, they meet up with a couple of friends who have arrived to bring them back, but before the quartet can make a break for it the village's curse is upon them: the dead have risen!
Now the friends must survive the onslaught of zombies while attempting to get to the bottom of the mystery of the forsaken town.
The problem with All Souls Day is that it really isn't a full-on zombie flick until over an hour has passed. There's an awful lot of build-up preceding the actual unveiling of the undead in all their gory glory, much of that runtime taken up with narrative attempts at unraveling the convoluted storyline.
Director Jeremy Kasten and writer Mark Altman are building their own zombie mythology here, and while I can get behind anyone who wants to throw a new angle at this emaciated genre, the downside is it takes a long time to do it. Worse, the way they go about it is by stringing the viewer along throughout and then finally unloading a huge stretch of exposition at the end -- smack in the middle of the zombie assault.
This chunk of exposition did the most damage for me; not because it wasn't fairly interesting (it was), but because it completely disrupted the flow of the film. At about the 70 minute mark or so, just as our protagonists are nursing their zombie-inflicted wounds and struggling to find a way out of their pickle, the film launches into an extended flashback sequence. While more Danny Trejo is always appreciated, the step-by-step, Scooby Doo-like explanation of the mystery is tedious and disruptive. This is a zombie film, not a Father Dowling mystery! Give me flesh-chomping, shotgun-wounding, limb-tearing, head-punching mayhem!
Credit where credit is due: when Kasten trains is camera on his zombies and there interactions with their hapless victims, we do get some undead fun. Kasten and crew have a good sense of gore and are liberal with their effects; blood flows and lacerations open and there's even a throwaway scene with a bunch of zombies chowing down on some fake limbs (a last minute addition according to the commentary, which would have sucked if it didn't make the cut).
The film looks great, and Kasten did a fine job giving his work a professional feel. The 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is solid and clean, with strong colors and sharp details; the 5.1 mix is effective as well. Where this disc really shines is in the extras department. Three robust featurettes -- "Raising the Undead: The Making of All Souls Day," "Faces of Death: The Make-Up Effects of All Souls Day" and "Jailhouse Rock: The Stunts of All Souls Day" -- chronicle very inch of the behind-the-scenes work. Altman and Kesten deliver a spirited commentary, and a deleted and extended scene, a storyboard gallery and the DVD-ROM accessible screenplay round out this impressive collection.
All Souls Day didn't do much for me. Spots of zombie nastiness were welcome, but some big-time pacing problems and a few really cheesy moments (don't get me started on the "Thank goodness for cheerleading!" acrobatic scene) hold this lumbering monster back.
The court recognizes the attempt at zombie innovation, but a chainsaw or two would have been nice.
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Filmmakers' Commentary
* "Raising the Undead: The Making of All Souls Day"
* "Faces of Death: The Make-Up Effects of All Souls Day"
* "Jailhouse Rock: The Stunts of All Souls Day"
* Deleted Scene
* Extended Scene
* Storyboard Gallery
* Screenplay (DVD-ROM)