All Souls Day: Dia de los Muertos (2005)
By: Devon B. on June 8, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
IDT (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. 86 minutes
The Movie
Director: Jeremy Kasten
Starring: Marisa Ramirez, Travis Wester, Nichole Hiltz, Laz Alonso, Jeffrey Combs, Ellie Cornell, David Keith, Laura Harring, Danny Trejo
Screenplay: Mark A. Altman
Country: USA
Wow! A new zombie movie by the writer and producer of House of the Dead! In case that line alone didn't make you run off to the video store to procure a copy of All Souls Day: Dia De Los Muertos, read on. To be fair All Souls Day is much better than House of the Dead, and Mark Altman says that part of his reason for wanting to write and produce All Souls Day was to make a zombie movie where the control wasn't stripped from him.

All Souls Day begins in the 1850s in one of the many remote Mexican villages where all the villagers speak English. The village is run by everyone's favourite MexiCAN, Danny Trejo, and everyone is getting ready to celebrate the Day of the Dead, but then there's a big explosion.

Cut to approximately 100 years later, and Ellie Cornell (from some later Halloween movies) and Jeffrey Combs (seriously, if you don't know what he's from, you need a punch in the face) are taking their children on a trip in Mexico, and end up at Trejo's old village. Their son is crippled, and is in situation very similar to that of Corey Haim's in Silver Bullet, wielding his parents' guilt about his condition as a weapon to allow him to harass the fuck out of his older sister. Anyway, when the family arrive at a hotel, they mention that no one speaks English. I guess they should've come 100 years earlier, when English was the language of choice. The stay doesn't go well for the daughter. In a very laboured, yet still mostly nudity free (!), bath scene, she gets a nasty surprise. In fear, she ends up outside, and is attacked by the village's resurrected dead, still wearing their Day of the Dead gear.

Cut to approximately 50 years later, and we're finally up to present day. Marisa Ramirez (who, according to the DVD is from General Hospital) and her beau are heading down to Mexico to meet her parents. This is a very weirdly edited scene, and perhaps the odd editing disoriented them, because they end up driving right into a funeral procession. The accident breaks up the procession and wrecks their car. It's quickly discovered that the funeral procession isn't so innocent, with a very much alive woman who appears to have been abducted as the centre of the ritual. The boyfriend goes to get the help, and finds sheriff David Keith (no doubt best known for Sabretooth), who takes charge. He tells the couple their car can't be fixed right away, so they'll have to spend the night in the village. Now, I don't want to give too much away, but they happen to be in the village where all that other shit happened, and they've unfortunately arrived on…wait for it…The Day of the Dead!

I know it looks like I've outlaid a lot of plot there, but this only takes us up to roughly a half hour in. I guess a good flaw to point out at this point would be that the film suffers from a jumpy narrative in the beginning.

I'd seen the All Souls Day trailer and was interested because it looked like the film might be inspired by some of the coolest movies ever, the Blind Dead series. Sadly, what's in the trailer is the assault from the Day of the Dead garbed zombies on the daughter from the 50s sequence. For the bulk of the film, the undead are your average zombies, though some still sport the Day of the Dead swag.

All Souls Day does try to have a sense of humour, and most of the quips are fine. Combs is as amusing as ever, which makes it too bad his part is so brief. The cast is generally strong, but is painfully multi-cultural. It's ALMOST as bad as those Jackie Chan films where's he has conspicuously cast a female co-star from each territory he wants the film to perform well in. I did like seeing David Keith, but his involvement does create a continuity error.

What really hurts this film is the utter stupidity that seems to have plagued the script. The film attempts at first to try and justify why characters are doing stupid things. When the couple are stuck in the town, there is debate about just leaving the hotel they've booked into, and a plan is put into effect. But at the same time, the very dodgy funeral procession had a LOT of people involved in it, so why would the characters trust anyone from the village, by, oh, I don't know, staying at their hotel? There're all sorts of idiotic elements like this. A tongue is removed so a woman can't scream. Unless Mexicans keep their vocal chords in their tongues, that's not going to work. 'Covering' someone from zombies evidently means to shoot all your ammunition into the air. When the characters get trapped, one of them mysteriously develops more gymnastic prowess than Lara Croft. There is juxtaposition here between sometimes clearly trying to avoid stupid horror character clichés and often taking stupidity to new levels. This leaves All Souls Day a total mishmash. It never gets as stupid as, say, the knife fight in the aforementioned Sabretooth, but it's not far off from that at times. That being said, I do respect the attempts to make All Souls Day a fresh spin on zombie movies. A lot of the criticism forced upon it seems to stem from people wanting Romero zombies, but these aren't. They're more like traditional voodoo zombies, with a bit of new mythos included, such as the effects of decomposing hindering the zombies' capabilities. This isn't an entirely original idea, it is in Mr. Vampire, after all, but is a new element for a western zombie movie.

In the end, All Souls Day is an incredibly silly zombie movie. There's some gore, mild nudity, and a few decent jokes. It's not great, but at least Altman DID improve on House of the Dead. The movie would've had to be 90 minutes of a math lecture for him not to have, but I still won't take the honour away from him.

All Souls Day is presented at approximately 1.85:1 in a 16:9 enhanced print. The print is pretty sharp, but does suffer from grain. The grain is not too distracting, but is definitely there. The colours look a little sharp at times, but perhaps that's just the vibrancy of the Day of the Dead costumes.
The audio is a 5.1 English track. The dialogue is at times mixed too low. Some of the sound effects are well done, but the mix is still a bit rough. This is explained in the special features as a result of rushing to get the film done in time to be in a film festival.
Extra Features

The disc features a commentary with director Jeremy Kasten and Altman. Altman tells a few stories that he labels 'funny,' but that just aren't. The two make a talkative pair, and mostly focus on production info. They do talk about the rush to complete the flim, and how some of the flaws got glossed over. They mention the failure of the bath scene, but don't seem to realise the reason it doesn't work is they REALLY forced a situation for nudity opportunities, than had no nudity. Neither Kasten nor Altman are fans of the Croft action sequence, and admit that's not how it was scripted and is completely incongruous.

Also included is a making of that runs over 35 minutes. The making of consists entirely of the usual back patting, boring crap. One guy in it says he wants to see a movie with nazi zombies…uh, just watch Shock Waves (or Zombie Lake!). There is some talk about nonsensical elements in other movies, and that the deep discussions went on to make sure that these didn't occur in All Souls Day. I guess they needed to talk more. A lot more.

A 16-minute featurette on the make up of the dead also focuses heavily on the gore elements. The FX actually look better here in a lot of places than they did in the film. They were trying to do some cool, detailed stuff; it just wasn't represented well in the movie. Be aware, this feature has real death photos.

But, to delve back into utter boredom, there's a 16-minute stunts featurette. Given the extreme stunts of Asian films, All Souls Day's stunts seem puny, and this featurette didn't make me change my mind. The only thing I learned here was that some of the stunt people also did stunts on Power Rangers.

The Verdict
All Souls Day might've been better if it were a Mexican movie, but then it may also have been cluttered by masked wrestlers, midget vampires, chupacabras, and crazy robots. Not that that wouldn't be an improvement, it would just make for a very different viewing experience. As is, it's an okay film, but doesn't have the skill behind the camera to overcome its massive script flaws.
Movie Score
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