All Souls Day: Dia De Los Muertos (2005)

DVD Cover (Anchor Bay)
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Overall Rating 37%
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During a Day of the Dead celebration, the dead come to life to prey upon the living. In the remote Mexican village of Santa Bonita, a nightmare lay buried for over a century. But when a group of hard-partying students from the OC are stranded in this strange town, they discover an innkeeper with a dark secret, a sheriff with a shocking past, and a holiday that demands the most horrific sacrifice of all. Now the ceremony can commence. The hordes of the undead have been unleashed. And on this day, an unstoppable feast of human flesh has begun! --TMDb
Review by Chad
Added: February 02, 2006
Tonight's feature film begins back in 1892 in the small Mexican town of Pueblo Bonita, where a certain Vargas Diaz (Danny Trejo) has discovered the final resting place of the Aztec Goddess of Death. Inside of this tomb is "more gold than any man could put a price on", so of course, Mr. Diaz is quite pleased with this find. However, he isn't too pleased when he finds out that one of his workers was attempting to steal a golden helmet out of the tomb, so Diaz gives this man a choice: put a gun to his head and kill himself, or watch as his wife and infant son are murdered. It's not too tough of a choice, and we quickly see just what kind of man this Diaz really is.

We then fast-forward to 1952 and witness a family on their way to a Mexican vacation. Thomas White (Jeffrey Combs), his wife Sarah (Ellie Cornell) and his daughter Lily (Mircea Monroe) are planning on taking this vacation to celebrate the fact that his son Ricky (Noah Luke) has beaten polio and has just been released from the hospital where he has been kept for quite some time. The happy, Leave It To Beaver'ish family soon realize that they are running low on gas, so they decide to pull into this small town up ahead in order to get a tankful of gas and a good nights sleep at a hotel. That town that they chose to pull into just so happens to be Pueblo Bonita, and damned if there isn't some spooky events going on in the hotel that they picked. Suffice it to say, this family never made it to those sunny Mexican beaches.

Finally, we move onwards to present day. Joss Gilbert (Travis Wester) and his girlfriend Marisa Ramirez (Alicia Barena) are on their way to Marisa's parents' Mexican ranch so that she can introduce her boyfriend to her folks when they come to the realization that they are lost on these old back-roads. They see a small town up ahead, and decide that it would be in their best interest to stop and ask for directions. After passing through the "Pueblo Bonita" sign above the town entrance, Joss has to make a sharp turn to avoid hitting a funeral procession that came out of nowhere. Yes, I agree that it doesn't make much sense describing it, but hey... I didn't write the script here. Anyway, Joss manages to avoid mowing down any of the living, but he does manage to knock over the casket with his reckless driving. What happens next is quite bizarre... the "corpse" starts moving around, and thanks to her writing out her story in the dirt, we soon find out that her name is Esmerelda (Danielle Burgio). We also find out that she was stuffed inside of this casket to be sacrificed and that she had her tongue cut out so that nobody could hear her screaming. The town Sheriff soon shows up to see what in the hell is going on, and after promising Joss that he will take care of the situation, he mentions that the young couple should head on over to the hotel to get a little shut-eye. There, they are greeted by Martia (Laura Harring), a strange lady who eventually opens up to them and allows them to stay the night in her establishment, but not before discussing the ongoing celebration of the Day of the Dead. Some more spooky events happen that reminds us of the 1952 encounter in this very hotel, and our lead couple decide that it would be in their best interest to get out of town... but not before calling up their friends Tyler (Laz Alonso) and Erica (Nichole Hiltz) and having some fun. The foursome get down to some drinking and partying, but what they don't know is that the young lady in the casket was to be a human sacrifice to appease the Goddess of Death... and since the sacrificial ceremony was ruined, the town graveyard is about to start emptying out.

There's actually a whole lot more to the storyline, but that'll give you the spoiler-free gist of things. Indeed, this storyline is quite intricate, a fact that shocked me coming from a low-budget zombie movie that debuted on the Sci-Fi Channel. The three time-periods all come together in the end, we learn how the events in each period tie into what's going on in the present day, and we find out the real reason for the undead horde swarming this town. There's some really good ideas coming out of this storyline, and I found that it was solid from beginning to end. Sure, there were some idiotic decisions made by the main characters, but what horror movie doesn't feature such nonsense? With that aside, the overall plot made up for any shortcomings in these select few scenes, so I can deal with some stupidity from the heroes.

When the zombies start rolling out of their graves, we find out that these monsters are not exactly the freshest of corpses... indeed, some of them have been buried for over a hundred years, and the makeup effects used show off that fact quite well. These makeup effects weren't anything groundbreaking and they certainly won't top my "Best Ever" list, but they were leagues better than most of the low-budget zombie movies I've seen (and even better than a few of the recent Hollywood offerings). There's a small amount of gore to be found on the DVD (it was all hacked out in the television debut), and it's good while it lasts... but really, there's only a couple of scenes of such, so gorehounds will definitely be disappointed. The zombies look great and all, but I would have really loved to see them get just a little bit more gut-munching action throughout the running-time.

The movie did have a few problems to found. There's the stupid decisions made by the lead characters, which is typical in most horror movies, but still... don't be surprised when you find yourselves wondering who let these kids out of the "special" school. I can deal with that, but there were two scenes in particular that really irked yours truly. The first one features a zombie with super-human strength and speed. If you thought that the running zombies in the Dawn Of The Dead remake were silly, then you haven't seen anything until you witness this zombie lady in action. This particular zombie wasn't even a main character in the movie or anything, just the writers idea of what a newly-turned zombie would act like. She's taken care of in just one scene and then it's back to the shambling undead that we know and love, so I suppose it's not a huge issue... but the scene did turn me off to the movie a bit.

The second thing that bugged me wasn't exactly a particular event, but an entire scene instead. You see, it seems as though the required action-level hadn't been reached by the time the movie was winding down, so the director decided that he needed to get on the ball in that regard and shove a whole lot of it into one quick scene. A lady suddenly gains the amazing ability to do a back-flip from the road to the hotel roof and nearly leap across the town in a single bound, and then comes the stupid movie decision that trumps all other stupid movie decisions. Spoiler alert, so if you don't want a death revealed, skip the rest of this paragraph. You see, this lady was heading towards the car so that the group could escape the hotel where they were holed up, and as she drives up to the front-door, her boyfriend runs out and attempts to enter the car. When he runs outside, he sees that he is facing the drivers side of the car and has a clear path to the back door of said car; there is absolutely no zombies in front of it and he could mosey on over to the back-seat with no chance of becoming zombie fodder. However, the other side of the car is swarming with zombies, so what does our hero do? Instead of walking straight ahead, getting in the back-seat and letting his woman drive them out of there, he walks around the car, into the waiting arms of the undead. This leads into one of the very few gore scenes of the movie, so I can't complain too much... but I'll tell you, that scene had me laughing for all the wrong reasons.

In the end though, the movie isn't all bad if you don't expect too much. If you're looking for some zombie entertainment with some rather neat ideas driving the story along, you can't go wrong here. It's not a perfect movie, but frankly, it was a hell of a lot better than it had any right to be. 7/10.
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