All Souls Day (DVD)
Starring Laz Alonso, Danielle Burgio, Travis Wester, Marisa Ramirez, Jeffrey Combs, Danny Trejo
Directed by Jeremey Kasten
Released by Anchor Bay Entertainment
I was a very big supporter of Jeremy Kasten's first film, The Attic Expeditions, which was made a full two years before it actually saw release on DVD. The movie itself wasn't exactly groundbreaking, but it was an interesting mindfuck and a very cool debut film. So when I heard Kasten was teaming with Jeffrey Combs again for the first film under the CFQ Films banner, and that it was a zombie movie, needless to say I was excited.
A few months after All Souls Day was finished, however, it debuted on the Sci Fi Channel to less than stellar reviews. Turns out Combs’ role was a glorified cameo (though he played a 50’s dad, a welcomed switch for him), and that the actual zombies don’t show up until almost an hour into the film.
Not that that would be a bad thing if everything leading up to the zombie's appearance was interesting, but unfortunately something went wrong from the script stage to the final cut. All Souls Day ends up being a convoluted mess in the end that goes from mind-numbingly dull to head-spinningly confusing with nary an eye blink. It’s a movie you have to spend a little too much attention to to make sense of, which is never a good thing when you’re trying to create a fun zombie movie.
Back at some point in the 1800’s, a small village in Mexico discovers ancient Mayan artifacts in their nearby mine that will make the entire town very, very wealthy. Unfortunately, the owner of the mine (Trejo) wants it all for himself and makes a deal with the Lady of Death to live forever; all he has to do is sacrifice his entire town. Apparently this isn’t an issue for him.
Cut to the 1950’s, and a family on a vacation ends up in the same small town needing a place to stay. Their little boy is possessed or something (it’s a bit hard to figure out what's going on) and his entire family is killed by the dead miners, who have come back for their revenge. But they apparently go away shortly after.
Cut to present day. Joss (Wester) and his girlfriend Alicia (Ramirez) end up in the small town as well, after getting into an accident trying to avoid hitting an apparent funeral going through town. What comes out of the coffin, however, is a naked girl with no tongue, covered in tribal artwork. Taking her to the local authorities doesn’t prove to be the best idea, as the sheriff turns out to be one of the guys who helped make sure the naked girl was tongueless. Seems the dead miners come back to life occasionally (no definitive time frame is established, at least not that I caught), and the only way to keep them from eating the townspeople is by sacrificing a Mexican girl.
So the tongueless girl kills herself and the locals are forced to find a new sacrifice for the dead. Luckily Alicia is Mexican, so she’s able to take their place once captured. Zombies wander around, occasionally eating people running form one place to another or trying to get out via car, normal kids turn into gun-wielding hero types, and an empty-brained cheerleader does a ridiculous amount of (sometimes very fake looking) acrobatics.
I can’t really pinpoint one specific thing that’s wrong with All Souls Day, it’s just messy from start to finish. Its only saving grace is the relatively decent acting and cool looking zombies created by Almost Human (Robert Hall and company). But there’s not nearly enough of either to make it even partially recommendable unless you have an overwhelming desire to see just how bad of an actor Danny Trejo can be.
The DVD, however, is another story all together; Anchor Bay proves yet again why they’re a horror fans best friend with this stacked DVD release. Biggest and best of the bunch is "Raising the Undead: The Making of All Souls Day", a 35-minute featurette made up of interviews with cast and crew as well as behind-the-scenes footage. It almost makes me feel bad to report that the movie is no good because all those involved in making it were really excited about the entire process. It makes for a great featurette that I actually recommend watching before the feature (though it does have spoilers), as you might be able to carry some of the excitement with you into the film.
"Faces of Death: The Make-up Effects of All Souls Day" is an almost 20-minute examination of Hall and crew's work on the film and definitely one of the coolest things about the DVD. The final featurette is "Jailhouse Rock: The Stunts of All Souls Day", which tells, among other things, how it is a cheerleader is able to leap onto the top of a building without even a running start.
The commentary with director Kasten and producer Mark Altman is filled with even more of the excitement and glee the featurette contained, which almost makes me wonder if I’m watching the wrong film at times. I mean, they seem really happy with it, and I just can’t see why. An extended and deleted scene, storyboard gallery, trailer, and even the entire screenplay (as a DVD-Rom feature) round out the disc.
So to make a long review short: bad movie, good DVD. Anchor Bay definitely went all out for All Souls Day and delivered another great, feature-packed disc to their growing library. And who knows, maybe you might enjoy it more than I did. In fact, I hope you do. Maybe you’ll get lucky and see the movie Kasten and Altman thought they were making instead of what I saw on this DVD.
Commentary by director Jeremey Kasten and producer Mark Altman
"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"
All Souls Day screenplay (DVD-Rom)
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