So, Rider Strong (Cabin Fever, Boy meets World) a Paul Walker look alike (Jake Muxworthy)and a Jim Caviezel look alike (Brian Presley) walk into a bar in Mexico.....I dunno if this joke has a punchline, but if it did it'd probably have something to do with them all being Hollywood 'D' listers, or something to that effect.
All jokes aside, this movie is pretty damn good, despite being a part of the 8 Films To Die For collection, which isn't always filled with terrible films, but when it is.......The three earlier mentioned characters find themselves joined by a pretty favorable cast of no names, apart from Sean Astin (Encino Man, Lord of The Rings) who plays a role not originally thought by me to be in his wheelhouse. Tobacco chew spitting psychopathic cult follower just doesn't scream Sean Astin to me, but he did a pretty fair job. As did most others in the film. The three main characters are a bit cliched in the way they were written, making them a little bit less sympathetic, but they get the job done without ruining any of the stronger points in the film. The story is loosely based off of a drug cartel kingpin who performed human sacrifices in the name of Satan to further his drug running success, so you can imagine where the story here goes. Good subject matter, although not the most original, aptly handled by the screenwriters, and not too badly handled by the cast.
I really enjoyed the style in which this film was shot. It really did justice to the desperate, sweaty, hot, bloody and dusty area that is the Mexican American border. The grit and hopelessness of the story came through very well visually, lending the film a degree of evil that it may not have attained without the production.
The gore in this one is, by far, its most winning aspect. While it's not a full on torture porn, it still has a good amount of those types of scenes. People being liberated of their eyes, scalping, tongue removal and much more. To go along with the more captive and intimate violence is a healthy dose of action movie gore, gun fights and machete battles are strewn everywhere across this hellish Mexican landscape leaving any would be tourists who watch this movie with second and third thoughts.
This is definitely one of the better, if not second best (behind Frontier[s]) movie associated with the 8 films.... franchise. While it's not re-inventing the wheel, it's doing some fun stuff that is made all the more creepy by its association with actual events.
7/10 detached retinas
Well, once again the hype machine has struck. And this disappointed reviewer has fallen for their shit yet another time. I've been buzzing in anticipation of this flick for a couple of months now. Finally get the sucker queued up and slowly but surely all remnants of said buzz are slowly washed out of me with each passing moment of this unimaginative and all too cliche waste of time. The film has moments where I regathered hope and interest and thought to myself "Well, maybe if they finish the rest of this picture off strong, they can justify some of these other, more glaring issues." But each time a moment like that arose it was crushed soon thereafter by another, more glaring issue than the past.
This anthology has a lot of the elements you need to succeed when making a variety platter type film, but they are so disjointed and amateurishly thrown together that it's hard to credit anyone for their creative input. A couple of the early stories were interesting and had a very realistic feel to them. Being a found footage anthology, all of these stories are shot on home video and the first two stories really did a good job of capturing the essence of what the scenario would be like for the person filming.....no unnecessary story prompt scenes that take you out of the moment or unrealistic camera work. Good gore was in both of these shorts, with a really great creature make-up that will stick with me for awhile. I commend the directors of both of these shorts and wouldn't be adverse to viewing anything else they have to offer. But from there things start going severely downhill.
The next story is an absolute bomb, terribly acted, shot, written and just plain aggravating. The entire time the camera is freaking out and harsh feedback assaults the ears while the picture cuts in and out.....this could have been forgivable if the premise was interesting, but it wasn't.....at all.
Following by far the worst story of the film is the strongest story conceptually, a bit weak on visuals, but a good premise. The lead actress of this story is a pretty fun shepherd for this little journey, and despite the purposely confusing ending, it still left an easily swallowed taste for my movie viewing palate.
Next up we've got the resolution of the host story, which has been going on throughout the film, before and between the other stories. The characters in this do a pretty great job of acting like assholes, so there a bit of justification in their demises, but I really don't even have any idea what the hell happens to them in the end. It's poorly shot, on purpose, but it doesn't make it any more authentic feeling.....just nauseating.
The final story of the film is about as generic and cliche as has ever been in an anthology style movie. Ghost/exorcism/ jump out scare crap. But by the time we had made it to this point of the movie none of us watching it were invested enough to care that the scares were even going on. There's not much to this story, just a group of guys saving a girl, running....etc. Really weak stuff. And roll credits.
The true gravity of my disappointment didn't completely hit until a few minutes after the movies end as I went through what I had just seen and weighed the sum of its parts, which didn't add up to much. Even the good moments of this film weren't really good enough for me to recommend this movie to anyone. But that what the hype machine is for. Step 1. throw the most visually striking moments in a trailer. Step 2. get people talking. Step 3. ????? Step 4. PROFIT! Whatever, I guess I'm just bitter.
4/10 detached retinas
The inevitability of Shaun of the Dead comparisons to this film is almost as certain as gravity, so purely for the sake of avoiding redundancy, I'm going to do my level best to steer clear of any and all unnecessary associations between the films. I feel, as strong as this movie was, it would be a grave injustice to try and make it meet the kinds of successes its nearly perfect British counterpart met. Juan of the Dead is obviously and defiantly its own film, and anyone disappointed by it's lack of similarity to Shaun.... is completely missing the point.
From the opening scene of this film on, it is abundantly apparent that the characters in this film are not going to be the usual type of protagonists one may have gotten used to seeing on screen over these last few decades in which the zombie revolution has slowly but surely taken hold. This ragtag band of Cuban heroes are much more prepared for a bloody end through their already unstable and semi desperate lives. Living under the banner of 3rd world communism has given these cats a survivors leg up and enough of a skewed moral compass to be perfectly suited for the environment they are soon to be thrown into. They knock the Zomedy ball out of the park as well, line after lulzy line of goofy, language barrier crossing wit fills this movie to bursting. All of the characters are wildly over the top, but in an endearing and easily relatable way that makes this movie all the more fun to watch.
Plot wise, there's not a lot of new stuff going on here. You've got a band of survivors on a zombie infested, communist run island. After a few tries to monetarily gain from the situation, they decide it's not worth it and that maybe it's time to get the f**k off of said island. Standard, solid and unapologetic.
Gore, oh that zombie flick gore, it really is the brightest part of an already glowing genre. This film does nothing to change that, great scenes of limbs flying, jaws ripping, faces being lacerated, torsoes getting crushed are all through this movie, complete with ridiculous action sequences resembling some sort of slapstick Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon hybrid in which these wounds are delivered. All in all, despite some minor CGI issues that really aren't worth getting into, the action, visuals and violence in this film lived up to every other part.
In closing, I'd like to mention that this film may get a few zombie purists up in arms, as it doesn't always perfectly fit with the exact mold of what a zombie film should and shouldn't do. But I'll tell ya right now, anyone complaining about those aspects of this film is splitting hairs. This movie is a comedy...... a comedy that's chock full to exploding with "Dissident" zombies, but a comedy first and foremost. And a uproariously entertaining one at that. Put any preconceptions you may have about this film aside, open your mind, watch the hell out of it and be all the better for it. Cheers.
8/10 detached retinas