Evil Grave: Curse of the Maya (2006)
Starring Amanda Bauman, David Heavener, Joe Estevez Todd Bridges, Libertie Heavener
Written & Directed by David Heavener
I knew little about Evil Grave: Curse of the Maya going into it other than what I'd read over at IMDB. The film had been released already in Europe and the reviews from across the pond seemed to fall into one of two categories. Reviewers either thought it was a good, not great, zombie flick or one of the absolute worst movies ever made. After seeing it for myself, I'm of the opinion that both opinions are in some ways accurate. I found the first 70-minutes to be a bore to sit through and the last twenty to be quite entertaining.
First of all, I was a bit thrown off for a few seconds right from the beginning because the synopsis described "a young couple" moving into an abandoned house and the male half of this couple turned out to be played by Joe Estevez. I like Joe Estevez, but the man hasn't been young for quite some time.
Long story short, Renee had a nervous breakdown after the death of her child. She's now engaged to Jeffrey (Estevez), who feels that getting away from the city will be good for her recovery. You can't get much further from city life than a house in the badlands near the Mexican border. Renee immediately finds an old Mayan artifact and brings it inside. She then meets Michael (David Heavener), a local that keeps the nearby energy-producing windmills going.
It appears that there was a Mayan family that had lived in the house previously until they were brutally murdered. A flashback scene shows us the family being killed one-by-one by an unseen assailant using a shotgun. The murdered members of that immigrant family eventually return from the dead as flesh-eating zombies.
Evil Grave: Curse of the Maya is one of those movies that’s constantly trying to mess with the audience by making you wonder what's real and what's actually one of Renee’s hallucinations. Was there really a murdered family and is there really some sort of specter attacking her? Those are just two of her recurring delusions. I honestly can't tell you with any certainty whether or not the movie did a terrible job with this technique or if I just didn't get it, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that very little of what went on for an extended period of this movie made no sense to me whatsoever and I was growing increasingly bored with every passing minute. I'll give writer-director-producer David Heavener - he truly is a one man filmmaking machine - some credit for at least trying to make something that deviated from the standard formula. Whatever he was going for just didn't work at all for me.
The gets off to such a slow start that it initial momentum the film could build. This isn't a movie's plot opening with a slow burn; this is just a brutally slow start. The opening minutes consists of the couple arriving at the house and Renee slowly walking around, surveying the landscape, saying little or nothing, for what felt like an egregiously long time until finally meeting Michael.
There's also a subplot involving another couple and some Spanish-speaking Mexican migrants that's utterly pointless except to give the zombies a few extra people to chew on until it’s time to go after the main characters. I must admit chuckling at the sight of seeing "Oh, shit. The walking dead." subtitled on the screen.
Lest I forget "Diff'rent Strokes"' Todd Bridges in what has to be the most thankless role of his career as Michael's mentally retarded co-worker. I don't recall if he ever actually had any lines and the character itself is barely even in the movie. He doesn't even get killed by the zombies.
As bored as I was by the first hour or so, the movie finally becomes entertaining once the zombies finally take center stage. The zombie make-up and the gore effects are shockingly good considering how obviously low the budget was. The way the zombies have to be dealt with is unique and nice change from the typical blow-their-brains-out zombie flick mindset.
I would like to give David Heavener a little advice: If you don't want to spoil your big twist at the end then may I suggest you not show that character using the exact same shotgun to fight zombies with as was used in the earlier murders?
But I'm willing to overlook that since the twist that followed that obvious revelation was great. The last ten minutes of Evil Grave: Curse of the Maya is considerably amusing. That sense of fun was sorely missing from the majority of the film.
1 1/2 out of 5
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