All Soul's Day (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
All Soul's Day was written and produced by Mark A. Altman, whose previous track record as writer/producer consists of exactly two films:
Mark seems to be reaching for the Franklin Shaffner Award which is presented once in a generation to the filmmaker with the greatest gap between his best work and his worst.
Here's Shaffner's own overview:
Altman has never directed but we'll allow him to participate in the general category of "creative talent." As of today, his high/low score is schooling even the master himself, with a 4.38 gap between his best and worst, compared to a mere 3.71 for Shaffner - and Altman managed to do it in two films, while Shaffner took most of a lifetime before he could pump his score up by directing Yes, Giorgio. Approaching Altman's third project, you have to wonder which Mark will show up. Will it be the guy who wrote the delightful geek comedy Free Enterprise, which starred Bill Shatner doing a hilarious turn as Bill Shatner; or will it be the guy who produced and co-wrote Uwe Boll's worst movie, which is rated 14th on IMDb's list of anybody's worst movies? I suppose your only guarantee is that the film will offer plenty of laughs. The uncertainty lies in whether they will be intentional.
You know what? Even after watching the movie, I'm not sure whether the laughs are intentional. On the surface, All Soul's Day is another hilariously bad movie about the undead, in the tradition of House of the Dead, but maybe that's only a half-truth. It's true that it sometimes seems to be a zombie movie which is so bad as to be hilarious, yet at other times it leaves you thinking that the filmmakers must be attempting an over-the-top spoof of the genre, kind of the zombie equivalent of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Which is it? I think it is a failed horror movie rather than a semi-successful horror spoof, but there is a thin line between those, and I won't swear to it.
It begins with a brief bit of action in 1892 which shows a corrupt Mexican businessman killing everyone in a small town on The Day of the Dead. (Seems like a fitting celebration to me.) The town is Santa Bonita. Hey, if you have to have a patron saint, it may as well be an attractive one. The town of Santa Fea was doomed from the start. The second part of the film skips forward sixty years to 1952, as a white-bread American family pulls into that same small town on their way to a tourist destination. Unfortunately for them, they decide to visit on The Day of the Dead, when the town is filled with zombies and ghosts and human sacrifices and Republicans. They have no choice. They are tired and out of gas, so they stroll into a local hotel ...
... where they promptly start to act like characters in a grade B horror movie.
Let's see, what should we do?
H-m-m. Nobody will come to the front desk of the hotel. When we wander around a bit, we encounter many spooky characters, none of which will look at us or talk to us. So what do we do? Since nobody will wait on us, we decide to sign ourselves in and grab some keys. When we go to sign the guest register we see that nobody has stayed in the hotel in the previous five years. This raises no red flags. Oh, sure, we see some horrible ghosts in the mirrors, but that must just be the result of stress built up in our long, long day on the road, so our next step is to head on upstairs for a relaxing night of sleep!
At this point I actually got permanently lost in the plot. You see, the daughter took a shower and got killed by zombies, while the son had some kind of mystical connection with the ghosts who haunted the hotel, and ended up living in the town forever. (The town has both ghosts and zombies, as well as a 150-year-old man. It's like a resort for the undead.) What about the parents in that family? The last we saw of mom and dad in 1952, they were gettin' ready for ... um ... well, ol' dad was going to eat a taco, and I don't mean Mexican food. The story jumps to 2005 after sis gets eaten by zombies.
In the third time frame, yet another American car was driving into Santa Bonita on The Day of the Dead. This is where I started to get really lost, because the ghosts started talking about events that happened "more than 150 years ago," but the events pictured seemed to be the same events from the prologue, which took place in 1892. Did I miss something, or are ghosts just bad at math? Then I started to think about some of the other plot points. The little boy from 1952 is now supposed to be the sheriff of the town, but he was about ten in the 1952 sequence, so that would make him about 63 years old now. Huh?? The role is played by David Keith, who is only fifty years old and looks younger. What the hell? Is there a supernatural explanation, is it a joke, or did the filmmakers just not think about how old the character is supposed to be? I have no idea.
That should be enough to give you the general feeling of the movie.
Altman wrote Free Enterprise, so we know he has some talent, and director Jeremy Kasten showed some good visual style in a pretty decent little movie called The Attic Expeditions a few years ago, so he has shown some promise as well. Unfortunately the team just didn't mesh here, and the film was a quickie, shot in 17 days for the Sci-Fi channel. The film has dubious logic, trite characters, confusing facts, bad acting, unresolved plot points, and very little gore. The visual style isn't so bad, but Kasten didn't have enough time or money to create the special effects necessary to support the style. Is it all meant to be a spoof? Maybe. If you assume that all the film's most outrageous flaws are there to spoof genre films, ala Beyond the Valley of the Dolls or Deathstalker II, you could draw that conclusion. There are indications that the filmmakers were headed in that direction from time to time. The family from the 50s, for example, seems to be a purely comic invention. In the final reckoning, it doesn't matter. Either way, zombie film or zombie spoof, I just couldn't find enough positives to keep me from getting bored.
On the other hand, the DVD is a different story. It is an Anchor Bay production, and is up to the standard we expect from that company. It includes a full-length commentary and 68 minutes worth of featurettes ... that's a lot of discussion. You could easily spend three hours on the special features. Unfortunately, the film is really not good enough to warrant that kind of commitment.
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