Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring Ross Kelly, Stephanie Marchese, Miguel Martinez, Mike Hatfield
Directed by Joseph Conti
Distributed by Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment
Looking and feeling exactly the standard of quality we’ve come to expect from the legion of Syfy original movies, Army of the Dead tells the story of the lost city of El Dorado, said to be home to untold treasures. A group of students head out to the Baja desert for some off-road shenanigans accompanied by their professor, unaware that he has ulterior motives. Once there, the unfortunate troupe discover that the treasure (in the form of gold coins) is guarded by an army of ancient sword and bow-wielding skeleton warriors. Throw in a few mercenaries, and you have a recipe for some good old fashioned hack ‘n slash fun, but there are just too many problems with Army of the Dead for it to live up to the promise.
A B-movie through and through, the film is played entirely straight from start to finish and certainly couldn’t be accused of lacking ambition. The opening scene is well constructed and atmospherically handled with the carnage played out in silhouette form before the titles roll. Once everything begins in earnest, though, Army of the Dead begins to unravel. At a two-hour runtime, it’s simply much too long for its own good as the audience is forced to endure nearly an hour of borderline nonsense before the skeletal action begins. Unintentional laughs aplenty appear, for example the soundtrack to our heroes’ off-road action appearing convinced that the rather placid racing is the most exciting thing ever presented to an audience. When the skeletons appear and the bloodshed begins, the entertainment factor does ramp up considerably but is completely at odds with the astoundingly horrendous CGI effects.
The living skeletons themselves are decently animated and offer a welcoming level of charm, especially towards the climax as they shatter and crumple nicely, and the concept of blood-soaked skeletons releasing themselves from dead bodies to join the reanimated army is pretty cool; but some shoddy compositing makes the majority of their appearances look like green screen work from a 1990s video game. Other effects such as a car exploding, which is literally just one of the least convincing CG fire effects you’ll ever see pasted over the top of a fully intact vehicle, only serve to elicit a response of open-mouthed incredulity. The majority of blood and gore (of which there’s a surprisingly high amount) is also laughably poor and over-the-top as a ridiculous flow of CGI blood pours from every stab wound like someone just released the cork on a keg of wine.
Kudos to director Joseph Conti for really going all out with what was obviously a very limited budget; as mentioned, Army of the Dead is definitely an ambitious little flick, and the cast serve the film well, but it is much too difficult to get past the morose first half and assault of laughable effects that follows to make any kind of recommendation. That’s not to say that the film isn’t entertaining on a certain level – as it is – but the lack of sufficient quality in too many areas overwhelms.
One note to be made as well is the screener, which features not only a GIANT “Property of Maverick Entertainment Group, Inc.” slogan taking up the entire top third of the frame, but also a Maverick Entertainment logo that randomly appears in different areas of the screen as the film progresses, is an example of exactly how NOT to present a screener and proved distracting and, I’ll admit, somewhat amusing. The retail DVD release from Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment contains absolutely no special features whatsoever.
2 out of 5
0 out of 5
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