Directed by Brian Cox
The Dead One is based on a comic book I’ve never heard of called El Muerto. I got a friend who’s big into comics and when I asked him if he’d ever heard of El Muerto he too was stumped. I can only assume that El Muerto is either only known in Mexican-American circles or its a little known underground comic. Having now viewed the movie I honestly don’t know what possessed anyone to make a movie, particularly this variation on the comic. Several extras on the disc revolve around the film’s comic origins and from what I saw of the comic it looked like the film’s writer/director missed the point by a wide margin by trying to make a somewhat festive-looking comic book into a far more depressingly morose comic book superhero horror film that, ironically, is almost completely devoid either superheroics or horror. You cannot fault the film’s title for not being truth in advertising; this movie is indeed a dead one.
The concept behind The Dead One is clearly that of a knock-off of The Crow but with a Mexican flavor and just a hint of Ghost Rider tossed in for good measure. You got a cursed young man in do-it-yourself zombie white face paint dressed up like the frontman for a goth mariachi who gets brought back from the dead to do the bidding of some evil Aztec gods visualized in the form of cheesy CGI storm clouds that can manifest anywhere from in the sky to out of a television set. Naturally, the hero rebels and tries to stop them, especially when they want his girlfriend as a sacrifice.
I really see no need to get into the plot with any more detail than that because, frankly, I can’t say for sure if the plot simply didn’t make a whole lot of sense or if I was just so bored to tears by the film that in struggling to pay attention a lot the details slipped past me. Though I’ve no doubt the latter is true to some extent, I’m fairly certain this movie made zero sense – and it was indeed boring as hell. To say not a whole lot of anything happens in this film would be an understatement.
The character of Diego is introduced as a child being cursed (something to do with three days of rain and the Mexican Day of the Dead) by an old Indian played by the decidedly non-Indian Billy Drago, and then we jump forward to an adult Diego now played by Wilmer Valderrama of “That 70’s Show” looking like he’s ready to play Danny Zuko in an all Latino version of Grease. The annual Mexican Day of the Dead celebration arrives and this year some angry Aztec deities have finally decided they’re ready to collect on some sacrifices that will bring them back into prominence after having being replaced for so long by that Jesus guy.
After a hellacious vision quest, Diego awakens to find out it’s now a year later, that he died a year earlier, and that he has superhuman powers, including powers over life and death. Tormented to do the bidding of the evil Aztec forces responsible for his plight, so begins Diego’s quest for salvation, which from the looks of things primarily involves walking around Southern California an awful lot, whining even more so, and not really doing much of anything at all – well, other than walking and whining. He will set out to get his girlfriend Maria back and seek out the aid of a friend and a local priest. This will involve plenty of talking and whining. Whiniest supernatural superhero ever, folks!
Pretty much the only thing that ever perked me up would be when a recognizable actor like Michael Parks or Maria Conchita Alonzo would suddenly pop up and I’d be like, “Hey, I know her” or “Hey, there’s Michael Parks playing a sheriff like he always does in movies nowadays.”
And I couldn’t help but be slightly amused at how since his Day of the Dead costume make-up was now part of his facial skin, Diego attempted to disguise his deathly disfigurement using skin coloring cosmetics to make his face appear normal, along with wearing sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt, thus making him look like someone dressed like the Unabomber for Halloween costume. Yeah, I’m struggling to find stuff to praise.
I will say that the final battle was at least silly enough to momentarily awaken me from my near slumber, though that might have been because this was one of the only scenes in the movie where there was actual action of some sort occurring on the screen.
Poor Wilmer Valderrama … It’s rapidly becoming painfully apparent that this guy is doomed to be nothing more than this generation’s Chachi. Given his fame stems from playing a character known by one name on a period setting sitcom and his real-life reputation for boning no shortage of famous starlets, I fully expect to turn on VH1 in twenty years and see them airing a program called “Wilmer Valderrama is 45 & Single”. He really does have Scott Baio’s career trajectory at this point and he does himself no favors here. Even under his dead man make-up the guy still looks like a vacuous pretty boy trying ever so hard to come across as dark and brooding. Sorry, Wilmer, but it’s just not happening.
The disc comes loaded with extras (why?), most of the behind the scenes variety and that dealing with comic book on which it’s based. The only featurette I didn’t find myself shuttling through was the one about Mexico’s “Day of the Dead”, in which the comic’s creator explains his character and the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday in such detail and with such enthusiasm that it only further pounded home what a piss poor job the film adaptation was. Just looking at the comic book slideshow makes it clear that it isn’t anywhere as drearily dull as the film they’ve made out of it.
Once again, I must state how befitting a title The Dead One is. The film is lifeless and I’m only scoring it a one.
1 out of 5
2 out of 5
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